It’s been a year of major challenges and seismic shifts. Meet the executives who will lead the industry into its next iteration.
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BEST IN LOCAL TV AWARDS: THE ABCs OF THRIVING IN A DIFFICULT YEAR
VOLUME 150 • ISSUE 12 • DECEMBER 14, 2020 WWW.BROADCASTINGCABLE.COM
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12 SPECIAL REPORT FEATURES 12 SPECIAL REPORT: BEST IN LOCAL TV AWARDS The year 2020 has featured challenges across the board, from a global pandemic to social unrest to an unprecedented election cycle. The winners of B+C’s 2020 Best in Local TV Awards made sure their stations stayed strong through the tumult. 24 THE WATCH LIST An unprecedentedly disruptive 2020 has left the industry with much work to do. Meet the trend-setting and game-changing executives who will drive efforts to redefine television in the days ahead. 56 SYNDICATION Local TV programmers aren’t looking for more talk shows from big-name stars in 2021. Rather, they seek to fill their schedules with out-of-the-box programming ideas. By Paige Albiniak
24 THE WATCH LIST DEPARTMENTS 4 LEAD-IN 54 LOCAL NEWS 55 TECH 57 CURRENCY 58 POLICY 59 FATES & FORTUNES 60 DATA MINE 64 VIEWPOINT 66 THE FIVE SPOT
ABC Television Stations; Fox
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CBS Stations Chief Dunn Sees Bright Spots In Harrowing 2020 After 11 years as group president, veteran exec offers unique perspective on local TV By Michael Malone email@example.com @BCMikeMalone
CBS Television Stations
eter Dunn marked 11 years as president of CBS Television Stations in November, an extraordinary run for a group chief. Now president and CEO of the group, which includes 27 stations, Dunn is also president and general manager of flagship WCBS New York, a position he has held since 2005, along with running independent WLNY Riverhead, New York. Inducted into the B+C Hall of Fame in 2017, Dunn shared his thoughts on the eventful year we’ve had, how 2021 looks in terms of programming and revenue, and what local broadcast might look like five years down the road. An edited transcript follows. B+C: Ever seen a year like 2020 before? Peter Dunn: I’ve never seen anything like
KPIX San Francisco reporter Emily Turner covered the Glass Fire Sept. 30 in Napa, Calif.
this. Absolutely not. It’s a very difficult year. B+C: What is a highlight for the group this year? PD: We all chipped in to help each other out. KCBS was doing local news for New York for a couple of days during the pandemic, because WCBS was out of the [CBS] Broadcast Center and we had to come up with a plan. Our stations across the country did weekend news for the network during the pandemic. A couple of our stations carried the national stream for CBSN because their employees couldn’t get into the Broadcast Center. I’m in total awe of everyone that works in our station group. Every station, every employee — I couldn’t be any prouder to be part of the team. B+C: Have you found revenue in new spots, maybe revenue that you wouldn't have had in a normal year? PD: Political couldn’t have happened at a better time. In the second quarter, the market
obviously cratered. Ever since then, we’ve been building back up to where we need to be. Categories across the board were hurting and they’ve gotten better since. Health care is better, entertainment’s a little bit better, sports betting. We’ve worked together with our clients to get through this, which makes it kind of special in a weird way. It was all one big team trying to survive 2020. B+C: In terms of political spending, was it what you anticipated? PD: It was a little bit more. When [former Democratic presidential candidate Michael] Bloomberg started [spending] in the beginning of the year, that gave us a little bit of a cushion. That helped the political category right from the start. This was really an amazing political year on all fronts. We have a lot of markets where we've seen a lot of activity. On the West Coast, we had a lot of [ballot proposition] money. It was a record [political] year for us. B+C: Any thoughts on where people will work when the pandemic is over? Will many still be remote? PD: One of the things we’ve learned through this whole process is, we could do a lot from home. When things get better, there’s a good chance we will look at every department. Obviously our engineers and IT people, who’ve done an amazing job throughout this whole process, they’ve got to be there. Our news management has to be there, our anchors have to be there. But everybody else, it’s possible we could do a shared office where maybe 50% comes in Monday and Wednesday and 50% comes in Tuesday and Thursday. This year we learned a lot. One of the
things we learned is, we can do a helluva lot from home. B+C: George Cheeks was named president and CEO of CBS Entertainment Group on March 23. How has that worked out for the stations? PD: He’s been so supportive of everything that our people needed. Everything we’ve been doing this year, he’s never said no. It’s amazing, the support he’s given us. And even though he’s only been here since March, I feel like I’ve worked with George for like five years already, because so much has happened in such a short time. B+C: It was almost a year ago that the group launched 10 p.m. news on The CW affiliates in three markets. How’s that working out? PD: It couldn’t have come at a better time. They’re working out great, especially in markets where we have a lot of political money. We have a CW [station] in Atlanta [WUPA], where the Senate runoff is happening. It was a great call to do that prior to 2020. The newscasts look really good, too. They are very informative, very clean. It really helps the independent stations to have a base of a 10 p.m. news for promotions.
Top l., CBS Television Stations president and CEO Peter Dunn. Top r., KTVT Dallas-Fort Worth meteorologists (l. to r.): Erin Moran, Scott Padgett, Anne Elise Parks and Jeff Ray teach school kids about the weather. Below, WCCO Minneapolis reporter Christiane Cordero and photographer Mark Erb cover the civil unrest following the death of George Floyd.
stations will have a streaming presence. The numbers have been phenomenal. Between the pandemic, the recession, social injustice, wildfires in California and Colorado, and hurricane season, the number of people that turned to our CBSN local product has been amazing. Whether it’s streaming or on television, more people are watching our news. B+C: In this streaming age, where Netflix is such a premiere destination for so many people, where do you see local TV five years down the road? PD: After what we’ve been through in 2020, local news is going to be more important than it is now. Whether you’re watching it on Channel 2 or on CBSN New York, wherever you’re getting your content, local news is always going to be important. That’s the only thing that separates us from everything else that’s out there, especially coming off a year where our ratings have been up double digits across the board, year over year, because of all the things that we
had to make sure we kept them up to date with. It just shows that audiences want local news. B+C: How does 2021 look on the business side? PD: It’s too early to say. There’s a COVID spike happening now. How much will that cause a hangover in the first quarter? There’s still a lot of unknowns with that. I’m very optimistic about the vaccines. We’ve got the Super Bowl, March Madness, the Grammys, a lot of things that are going to help us with momentum in ’21. B+C: You’re the rare group chief who’s also a general manager. Why do you continue to run the show at WCBS New York? PD: I really don’t sleep much and I like working. It seems to be working, and it’s a great way to share best practices. If I’m going to tell my GMs, ‘you’ve got to do this and that,’ I’m doing it, too. I’m under the same demands that they are. I’m part of the team, which I’m thrilled about. ●
B+C: In terms of the CBSN rollout at the station level, what does that mean for a station’s presence in a market? Does that make them a bigger news player? PD: I think it does. More people watch our product. We broke a lot of records in streaming for local news. During the pandemic, we actually rolled out in two markets. We have 10 stations up and running right now [with CBSN Local] and three to finish off in the first quarter of ’21 — Miami, Sacramento and Baltimore. Once that’s done, all of our news
BEACHFRONT, SEACHANGE ENABLE PROGRAMMATIC FOR CABLE OPERATORS Unsold linear inventory gets monetized at a lower cost By Jon Lafayette firstname.lastname@example.org @jlafayette
able operators will be able to dive into the linear TV programmatic ad pool thanks to technology created jointly by Beachfront and SeaChange International. The technology, already being used in the U.S. by a global operator and a regional cable company — both unidentified — will enable multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) to tap into hundreds of millions of dollars being spent over automated platforms. “Linear TV inventory has long been excluded from programmatic marketplaces due to technical limitations and infrastructural challenges,” SeaChange president and CEO Yossi Aloni said. “In partnership with Beachfront, we’ve completed the difficult work of connecting modern, digital-oriented ad buyers to linear TV inventory. This is a major milestone for the media and advertising industry, which we expect will serve as a major catalyst for improving the CPMs for our cable operator and media owner partners.” The companies say their combined technology can also help direct-to-consumer and over-the-top video services sell their advertising without going through a middleman. Beachfront has been building advertising technology that works with the set-top boxes employed by cable operators. Last year, Beachfront enabled the programmatic buying of commercials in set-top-box video-ondemand programming. The new technology extends that to linear TV. Beachfront’s technology will interface with
SeaChange president and CEO Yossi Aloni: “We are moving [cable operators] into the 21st century.”
buyers and demand side platforms. Advertisers can activate this linear TV ad inventory — along with VOD, connected TV, mobile and desktop inventory — much faster than traditional direct buys through the use of real-time bidding. Beachfront will connect with VOD vendor SeaChange’s equipment, which provide information about available advertising, handles insertions and sends invoices. SeaChange also has the data about viewers needed to create targeted campaigns. Despite the changes in TV viewing, linear TV is not going away. In fact, Aloni points out ad-supported on-demand streaming services are creating linear channels so people can continue to be couch potatoes. The problem is that a lot of linear inventory
remains unsold. On top of that, for many MVPDs, their sales units are old and expensive. “These guys are actually using phones, and they’re calling customers and they have a cutoff date for commercials that’s three days ahead of when they go on-air,” Aloni said. “We are moving them into the 21st century. Not only are we enabling them to monetize their inventory, we are also enabling them to reduce their costs.” The companies said the technology has already been tested with public service announcements, and some real clients have put real money through the system to prove the concept works. “It will start generating very meaningful revenues in the next few months,” Aloni said, first internationally, then increasingly in the United States. Beachfront CEO Chris Maccaro said what’s holding back programmatic buying for traditional TV is “a bunch of legacy executives who want to protect the way things have been done for a long time. I think you’re starting to see a transformation and consolidation on the agency side where teams are collaborating holistically on where budgets are going.” Maccaro said Beachfront and SeaChange are giving buyers a lot of new flexibility. Instead of needing days to mount a campaign, “you can get a campaign live and buy it today.” “What will accelerate the growth of this programmatic capability is how quick the inventory can be used in addressable campaigns,” Maccaro said. “The quicker we get to addressability for this supply — whether it’s linear or VOD or even [connected] TV, which generally is addressable — and the more it looks familiar to how [demand side platforms] buy it, then demand starts flying into these channels,” he said. ●
BROADCASTERS FOUNDATION LAUNCHES YEAR-END CHARITY EFFORT THE BROADCASTERS FOUNDATION of America has launched its annual giving campaign, appealing to those in the industry for tax-deductible personal donations to the Guardian Fund and corporate contributions to the Angel Initiative. The campaign comes as more broadcasters than ever are reaching out for monthly or emergency relief. This year, the Broadcasters Foundation will award more than $1.7 million in 8
monthly and one-time emergency grants. Monthly grants have increased over 79% since 2016, and more than 500 emergency grants have been awarded since 2017. Over the past 20 years, the Broadcasters Foundation has distributed more than $13 million to
broadcasters in need. “We have seen requests for assistance escalate at a significant rate over the past several years,” Broadcasters Foundation president Jim Thompson said in a statement. “I ask every broadcaster to consider a tax-deductible contribution
to help us continue our mission of providing aid to colleagues who are desperate and in dire need.” Since its inception, the Broadcasters Foundation has distributed millions of dollars to thousands of needy broadcasters and their families. Individual donations can be made to the Guardian Fund, corporate contributions are accepted through the Angel Initiative, and bequests can be arranged through the Legacy Society. To learn more or to donate, please contact the Broadcasters Foundation at (212) 373-8250 or info@thebfoa. org, or go to broadcastersfoundation. org. — Chelsea Anderson
WATCH THIS …
Senior content producer Michael Malone’s look at the programming scene
Deliciousness Deliciousness begins on MTV Monday. It’s a food-themed Ridiculousness, full of food blunders and restaurant fails. Tiffany Thiessen hosts. Also on Monday, it’s Celebrity IOU on HGTV. Featuring more heartwarming renovations from Hollywood hotties to those who’ve made an impact on their lives, it is hosted by renovation expert twins Drew and Jonathan Scott. Celebs include Zooey Deschanel, Justin Hartley and Allison Janney.
By Michael Malone email@example.com @BCMikeMalone
The Stand: CBS; On Pointe: Disney+; Deliciousness: MTV; The Expanse: Amazon Prime; Dog of the Year: The CW
CBS All Access Takes a ‘Stand’
The Stand begins on CBS All Access Dec. 17. Adapted from the Stephen King novel, the series looks at a world decimated by plague and a struggle between good and evil. Whoopi Goldberg plays Mother Abagail, Alexander Skarsgård plays Randall Flagg and James Marsden portrays Stu Redman. “We had a lot of updating to do to make a 42-yearold book feel relevant to our modern day,” Benjamin Cavell, showrunner and executive producer, said at a press event. “Little did we know how relevant it would come to feel.” Cavell came on board three years ago, with no idea how relevant The Stand would become. But he sees it as more than a plague yarn. “Frankly, I’ve never regarded The Stand as really a book about a pandemic,” he said. “The pandemic in the book exists as a mechanism to
empty out the world so that there can be this really elemental struggle between good and evil.” Goldberg’s Mother Abagail represents the good. She drew on another one of her TV roles to inform her character. “It’s a person who is trying to get a whole bunch of people to do some things that maybe they don't believe in, they’re not sure,” Goldberg said. “Basically, I’m doing The View.”
Disney Plus Series Toes the Line
Docuseries On Pointe is on Disney Plus Dec. 18. It’s a look at a season in New York’s renowned School of American Ballet. Students ages 8 to 18 from a wide range of economic and ethnic backgrounds chase their dreams as everyone rehearses for a production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center. One does not have to be a fan of ballet to dig On Pointe. “The themes of the series are universal,” said Sara Bernstein, executive producer. “It’s about excellence and true dedication and young people chasing their dreams.” Bernstein calls On Pointe “intimate and immersive.” The series is produced by Imagine Documentaries and DCTV, with Brian Grazer and Ron Howard among the exec producers. They didn’t set out to make a reality series, Bernstein said, but one “about watching the students’ lives unfold.” Bernstein said Disney Plus was a perfect home for On Pointe. “They are looking for new and exciting documentary-type programing to appeal to the co-viewing audience they cultivate,” she said. The series is also a look at the parent-child relationships among these standout kids. “The parents are willing to commit themselves,” said Bernstein. “They are inspired by what they see in their children.” For her, viewing the students in their dress rehearsals emerged as something of a highlight. “It’s magical to watch their excitement and their anticipation and their nervousness,” Bernstein said. “And also their professionalism.” ●
The Expansege On Tuesday, it’s benefit concert Play On: Celebrating the Power of Music to Make Change on CBS. Kevin Bacon and Eve host, and the guests include LL Cool J, Sara Bareilles, Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr. On Wednesday, The Expanse rolls on Amazon Prime Video. It is the sixth and final season of the sci-fi series based on James S.A. Corey’s books. Thursday, The CW unleashes Dogs of the Year. The special counts down the top 10 dog stories of 2020. Yes, some happy stuff did happen this year. Dogs of the Year
SPECIAL REPORT: BEST IN LOCAL TV AWARDS
STATION GROUP OF THE YEAR ABC Owned Television Stations
A crew from ABC’s WPVI Philadelphia interviews protestors.
The ABCs of Thriving Local Broadcasting Not content to simply win in the ratings, ABC Owned Television Stations keeps rethinking how to best connect with consumers at home and on the go
ABC Televisiom Stations
By Michael Malone firstname.lastname@example.org @BCMikeMalone
hyper-eventful year such as 2020 might not be the best time to rethink one’s news operation, but that’s what ABC Owned Television Stations has done this year — and every year, for that matter. Whether it was COVID, battles over racial inequality or the monumental election, the ABC station group utilized a wide range of next-generation news-gathering facets, including community journalists, interactive town halls,
data journalism and group-wide specials, to rise to 2020’s unique news challenge. “In the midst of a global pandemic and a year of unprecedented racial reckoning, audiences turned to our stations for trusted, relevant, unbiased and often life-saving news and information about our communities,” ABC Owned Television Stations president Wendy McMahon said. The group includes WABC New York, KABC Los Angeles, WLS Chicago, WPVI Philadelphia, KGO San Francisco, KTRK Houston, WTVD RaleighDurham, North Carolina and KFSN Fresno, California. The eight stations reach 23% of all U.S. television households.
All eight stations were focused on producing forward-thinking news to meet these momentous times. The group hosted dozens of interactive town halls, connecting its journalists and community members to allow the latter to share with the former which issues are most relevant to them.
Data Gives ‘Critical Context’
Late in 2019, the group launched a data journalism initiative designed to analyze data at the neighborhood level and offer high-impact community reporting as a result. The project proved to be a vital asset in 2020. During the pandemic, the data journalism team analyzed millions of data points, resulting in hundreds of cutting-edge stories in newscasts and on digital platforms, offering viewers wrinkles to critical stories that the competition did not. One joint report between the stations and ABC News, for example, analyzed millions of flight records to show how COVID-19 spreads from international arrivals. “Our newsrooms had an unprecedented opportunity to provide critical context and relevance around the most important issues impacting local communities and find what we call stories ‘hiding in plain sight,’ ” McMahon said. Another enterprise saw 15
SPECIAL REPORT: BEST IN LOCAL TV AWARDS
community journalists hired at the stations, assigned to specific neighborhoods and tasked with finding positive stories often overlooked in the linear newscasts. More community journalist hires will follow. “Their presence in the community allows us a new way to deliver neighborhood-level news,” McMahon said.
Sticking with the theme of positive news, ABC Owned Television Stations launched Localish as a digital brand in the fall of 2018, sharing the good stuff happening in a given market with younger consumers who may not watch the 5 p.m. news. In February, it expanded to The Localish Network on owned stations’ D2 channels, taking the place of the Live Well Network and reaching over 14 million homes. McMahon said at the time, “While the ABC Television Stations are best-in-class in terms of breaking news and covering big stories, we thought we weren’t capturing as many of the positive stories in our communities, so we thought about how we could intentionally bring good stories about people, places and things into our brand offerings.” During the pandemic, Localish shifted to remote filming, and launched national series More in Common about Americans coming together in unexpected ways. It aired on digital platforms before becoming a weekly half-hour program across the group in March. “It remains a force, with high-impact reporting relevant to current events making an impact in the communities it serves,” said
Jennifer Mitchell, senior VP of content development, ABC Owned Stations. Seeing how local businesses were so gravely impacted by the pandemic, the ABC group launched the #BeLocalish initiative to help support them. “We told the stories of struggling small businesses,” Mitchell said. “But just as important, we showcased their resilience and ingenuity, and the compassion of the communities that supported those businesses.”
Perhaps the ABC group’s most significant achievement in 2020 is Our America: Living While Black, a five-part docuseries that culminated in a 60-minute documentary. All eight stations contributed.
Top l., Design firm owners Cheryl McKissick Daniel and Deryl McKissick are interviewed for Our America: Living While Black. Top r., More in Common producer Michael Koenigs (r.) interviews protesters. Center: A KABC Los Angeles crew interviews police. Below: Dion Lim of KGO San Francisco (r.) at a Building a Better Bay Area event.
The special featured stories of multigenerational Black families across America navigating policing, healthcare, education, wealth and housing disparities, while seeking to build more resilient communities. The series aired daily in all eight stations’ newscasts. Our America: Living While Black came to be due to a viewer survey. “Those results showed they wanted to see more diverse and inclusive storytelling,” said McMahon. “We listened to them and this led to the production of Our America: Living While Black.” Many stories out of the ABC Owned Group stood out this year, including ones depicting the disproportionate impact of COVID on communities of color, including extended school shutdowns in low-income communities; ones about the so called digital divide hindering minority students learning remotely, and a lack of polls available prior to the presidential election in Huntington Park, California, which has an enormous Hispanic population. KABC Los Angeles’s reporting resulted in local officials doubling the area’s poll locations before Election Day. With so many newsroom denizens stuck at home due to the pandemic, the ABC group got a look at how news can be gathered in the future. Many hard lessons picked up during COVID times will contribute to how business is carried out when things get back to normal. “In many ways, the pandemic accelerated much of the modernization work that we had already begun, particularly as it relates to remote work, leveraging technology to produce content more efficiently and supercharging the development of multiskilled journalism,” said McMahon. “We’ll also continue to foster the authentic connections that have deepened between our talent and viewers, and we’ll lean into the capabilities that have produced more important and impactful journalism.”
Wholly focused on reaching viewers wherever they may be, and at whatever hour they seek a connection with their favorite station, the ABC group launched mobile 32 apps for streaming platforms across the group. “We have always challenged ourselves to meet the audience where they are,” said McMahon, “embracing technology to drive innovation, and adapting our teams for the now and the next.” McMahon is well-suited for devising a progressive digital strategy. Before taking over the station group in January 2018, she was senior VP of digital for ABC’s owned stations. The ABC group features numerous local news powerhouses. WABC, for one, has been the most watched station in the country for 17 years, according to Nielsen’s total day ratings. Yet the stations remain highly motivated to innovate and stay on top. “We never take our leadership position for granted, and we acknowledge every day the trust our audience places in us,” McMahon said. “Local news has never been more important and it places our stations in a greater position to positively impact our communities.” ●
SPECIAL REPORT: BEST IN LOCAL TV AWARDS
Vital Voice for Hispanics In South Florida
Claudia Puig, Univision Miami president and GM, is wholly focused on keeping community informed and engaged By Michael Malone email@example.com @BCMikeMalone
iserable circumstances, in abundance in 2020, can bring out the best in people. In the early days of the pandemic, the building housing Univision’s TV and radio stations in Miami was contaminated with COVID, and Claudia Puig, Univision Miami president and general manager, had to make some quick decisions. She decided to evacuate the building, and WLTV ended up doing its 5, 6 and 11 p.m. news March 25 from the parking lot. The production truck bearing the station logo served as the anchors’ backdrop. The rain mercifully held off. The newscasts went to air smoothly. “We laugh about it now,” Puig said. “But we were sweating bullets at the time.” Puig brings savvy problem-solving skills to a crisis, abundant enthusiasm to most everything she does, and an unyielding desire to keep South Florida’s Hispanic community informed and engaged. “I like to use the word passionate — it never leaves her,” Univision president, Local Media Group Diane Kniowski said. “Claudia and Univision — they’re one. It defines her. It’s who she is.” Kniowski said Puig had about 90 minutes to figure out a Plan B that day in March. She ended up devising a Plan C, too — what Kniowski called a “redundant news production” facility at KMEX, Univision’s Los Angeles station, for the next time a crisis hit WLTV Miami, or any other station in the group. “She helped us prepare,” Kniowski said. “She said, this can’t be a surprise anymore.”
Gifted and Talented
Kniowski also mentioned how, in the early days of the pandemic, Puig organized gift-basket deliveries to advertising clients. Stocked with items to help deal with the pandemic along with various mood-brightening tchotchkes, Univision Miami staffers delivered the baskets and reminded advertisers that the stations were thinking of them. “It was, ‘You matter, we’re with you,’ ” Kniowski said, describing Univision 23 deliveries as “a little army of goodwill.” Puig oversees two TV and four radio stations. She described the “pillars” of the
local media outlets as education, healthcare, financial prosperity and civic engagement. As COVID wreaked destruction on the national and local economy, Puig set up a small business hotline, where local entrepreneurs could offer home delivery and takeout, as well as coronavirus-related products and services. The hotline evolved to promote job openings. As each TV and radio program wrapped, people were encouraged to call. “It helped employees find a job, and businesses find employees,” Puig said. That’s the job Univision Miami performs in DMA No. 16. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said the Univision outlets play a “huge role” for Hispanics in South Florida — both in terms of keeping the audience informed with vital information, and supporting beloved community events, such as the Three Kings Day Parade. “They’re a great community partner,” Suarez said.
Growing Ratings and Revenue Revenue has been a horror show for just about every station in America in 2020, but Puig’s creative approach has sparked some upside. Univision’s TV and radio stations in Miami outperformed revenue goals for nine consecutive months, and
GM OF THE YEAR MARKETS 1-25 Claudia Puig, Univision Miami
doubled political ad revenue from 2016 to 2020. In the November sweeps, WLTV won late news among all Miami stations, with a 4.1 in households and 2.1 in 25-54 demo. Kniowski mentioned daily lifestyle program El News Cafe, and how this “revenue generator” of a show, which features local client integrations, stayed on the air in the thick of the pandemic, never missing a day. Puig and her Univision 23 colleagues “came up with a million different ways to tell a story,” she said. Univision Miami also played a huge part in getting residents registered to vote. Univision 23 has long held registration drives around the market, such as at shopping malls. But COVID meant in-person events could not happen, so the station shifted to Facebook Live sessions, answering users’ questions about voting, interviewing election officials and supplying the information would-be voters needed. WLTV phone banks also sparked voter registration. Such initiatives are “ingrained” in the stations, Puig said. “We really want to empower Hispancis to have a voice,” she added. Across this eventful year, WLTV contributed significant stories to the dialogue on COVID, on the social unrest, the election and, more recently, the challenge of Hispanic children learning remotely in South Florida. Puig was born in Havana and moved to the United States as a young girl. Her father Manuel was a rower in the 1948 Olympics, and was executed for his role in the Bay of Pigs invasion. Puig’s widowed mother turned up in the U.S. with her four children. “I was the oldest,” said Puig, who was 7. “I was the quasi-Mom.” Her childhood travails gave Puig empathy for those in the market who seek out trusted local media to answer questions and address needs. “Claudia is very engaged, very personable, very plugged into the community,” Suarez said. Overseeing a staff of just over 100, Puig looks forward to a time when the station business is just about putting out standout local programming and supporting community events, not figuring out Plans B and C in a crushing pandemic. “We miss being all together,” Puig said. “But it’s remarkable how we’ve been able to do our jobs and continue to serve our community under the circumstances.” ●
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Big Challenges In the Big Easy
then helped the station plan its coverage and got grief counselors for staffers. “She was a real impact player for us and really beloved by everyone here,” he said. The station has funded two scholarships through the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters to support aspiring local female sports journalists in her honor.
WDSU’s Joel Vilmenay is managing through a pandemic, unrest, hurricanes and a year without Carnival By Jon Lafayette firstname.lastname@example.org @jlafayette
oel Vilmenay, president and general manager of WDSU, knows there’s never a dull moment in New Orleans. But this year, the city faced five hurricanes on top of the racial unrest and pandemic that made news and affected businesses nationwide. “This is our calling,” said Vilmenay, who’s been running the Hearst Television-owned station since 2007. He praised the way the station’s staff pitched in with long shifts and gave up vacation days to cover the news. Between June and October, WDSU devoted nearly 200 hours in local news and extended weather coverage surrounding the six hurricanes and tropical storms which affected the southern Louisiana and Mississippi coastlines. “It’s in these moments that viewers really need us and so we relish the opportunity to report these stories to help keep viewers safe and to keep them informed,” he said. Even though the pandemic hurt ad revenues — and Louisiana didn’t have election campaigns that generated much in political spending — WDSU was still able to provide intensive coverage thanks to Hearst. “I’m thankful we’re able to approach these events knowing that the resources will be there and they’ll be there consistently,” he said.
Station Coverage Draws Praise
The station’s efforts this year haven’t gone unnoticed. “I have to say the WDSU coverage has been outstanding,” said LaTonya Norton, Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s press secretary and a former WDSU anchor/reporter. “They’ve always had their ear to the ground and they’ve always catered to the community. I can’t imagine this television market without WDSU, and I know a lot of what we see is to Joel’s credit and under his leadership.” In this crazy year, Hearst Television president Jordan Wertlieb said his general managers have done a great job being present, even when most staffers have been working from home. Wertlieb noted that Vilmenay had a sales background when he joined Hearst as GM of KETV in Omaha in 2003 before being moved to the Big Easy. “Obviously, there are a lot of general
managers that come from a sales background, myself included,” he said. Beyond sales, the job involves content, engineering, community service and being a parent to the station family. “I think Joel has embraced all of those aspects just perfectly,” Wertlieb added. “I couldn’t be more proud of him.” A Washington, D.C., native, Vilmenay’s interest in broadcasting stemmed from working at the radio station at the University of Maryland, WMUC. After graduating, he got a job in sales at a radio station in Charleston, South Carolina, and returned to D.C. with WUSA. He got the assignment to work at WDSU a year and a half after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and was excited to help rebuild the station. With parents from Haiti and a French-sounding last name, he quickly fit in with the city’s gumbo culture. He now chairs the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters. Before COVID hit, Vilmenay and the station were jolted last December when that station’s sports reporter, Carley McCord, was killed in a plane crash en route to cover Louisiana State University in the college football championships semifinal game. After getting the news that Saturday morning, “I was devastated and sat still for an hour,” Vilmenay said. He
GM OF THE YEAR MARKETS 26-50 Joel Vilmenay, WDSU New Orleans
Recognized for His Editorials
Vilmenay makes an impact, too. He delivers the editorials written by the station’s editorial board, so he gets recognized by viewers at the supermarket who want to discuss the issues. The experience gives him empathy for the station’s on air talent. “When I’m on my twelfth take, it makes me appreciate the work they do, because it’s not easy,” he said. Beyond its Edward R. Murrow Awardwinning newscasts, the station has been airing extensive original programming to help viewers through the pandemic. Ask Dr. Hébert, a 30-minute show featuring the station’s medical editor Dr. Corey Hébert, aired in prime access 18 times between March and July, drawing an average of 54,000 viewers. It has continued to air on an as-needed basis. WDSU also worked with the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the local PBS station to broadcast Easter Sunday Mass live to worshippers who couldn’t attend church because of Louisiana’s stay-at-home order. Vilmenay is looking forward to 2021, when the NBC affiliate will air the Olympics. Some effects of the pandemic may linger, though. Already, Carnival season leading up to Mardi Gras is canceled, which will have an estimated nine-figure effect on the economy. “We’ll see what that will mean for local business and how we can help them get through all this,” he said. “It will be a big year for us.” ●
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Keeping Spirits Up In a Trying Time
KPLC’s John Ware leads with humor and a willingness to roll up his sleeves
interviewing Lake Charles residents working at hospitals in New York when it was the pandemic’s epicenter. That use of Zoom to broaden horizons will continue. Meanwhile, Ware’s focus on safety during the pandemic would only grow with the arrival of hurricane season. He took to writing nightly emails to staffers because with people scattered, “I wanted them all to see the big picture. It wasn’t just about the logistics but also about our humanity.”
Hesitated to Close Down
By Stuart Miller email@example.com @sfmsfm5186
stood on the roof and talked to Jesus today.” When John Ware, VP and general manager of Gray Television’s KPLC in Lake Charles, Louisiana, wrote to his staff in September he wasn’t emailing about an epiphany. He was updating them on Jesus Reyes, a roofer from New Orleans, repairing the damage done by Hurricane Laura. The Category 4 storm had Ware sending staff to two sister stations to keep broadcasting amidst a pandemic and an election season. Later, Ware wrote about mopping up “nasty water pooled in the break room” and how with that, the wet carpet near the studio and a lack of functioning air conditioners, “the station has got a little funk going!” But he always emphasized the positive: “There were about a hundred other things we dealt with today, but even with all of the frustrations we made progress.” The email captures Ware’s essence, Pat LaPlatney, president and co-CEO of Gray, said. “The idea of a servant/leader is a cliché, but it’s true of John,” LaPlatney said. “No job is too big or too small. John was cleaning the floors while coordinating with the engineers about getting on the air. He’s a selfless guy and he wraps that up in a great sense of humor.” Ware had already set aside much of his 2020 plans. “We had replaced our news director, and along with our change in leadership we were planning on expanding into new digital territory and launching new automation when the pandemic hit,” Ware said. “We were hoping to get to a whole new level. But in early March, corporate leadership wisely pushed us to react immediately so I had to figure out how to separate people in the building and which people could work from home.” There are lessons learned during 2020 that will carry over, even when (or if) things return to normal, Ware said. For example, reporters learned that Zoom knocked down old boundaries, so that while they might have initially thought about interviewing local doctors at the start of COVID-19, soon they were
While his emails contained plenty of light-hearted humor, initially it was tough to see the lighter side. As the hurricane approached, he hesitated to close down the station. Finally, flooding concerns prompted Ware’s decisive action: Some staffers were embedded with local emergency officials, while other critical staff was sent to sister stations in Alexandria and Baton Rouge, all while maintaining COVID protocols. Ware was the last person out the door. He spent the night at the city’s Emergency Operations Center a few blocks away. Ware returned at first light the next morning. While it turned out flooding wasn’t a major issue, Ware immediately saw that 135-mph winds had toppled a 380-foot tower onto the building where his journalists would have been working. “I did have a little bit of a breakdown, because I could have killed people if I hadn’t changed my mind,” he recalled. While keeping spirits up, Ware also kept KPLC running, delivering news via a digital setup at their GM OF THE YEAR Baton Rouge sister station MARKETS 51+ (WAFB). Ware had everyone home a month John Ware, later. And the temporary KPLC Lake Charles, La. roof held up through a second hurricane in early October. Ware also encouraged his staff to take a more personal approach on the air, talking about their losses and what they went through. “My home was not destroyed but others on the staff did have that happen,” he said. One story of a staffer whose cat was thought missing and ultimately found really connected deeply with the viewers who had gone through similar experiences, Ware said. “Our community said we were like a ministry to them with our reporting,” he said. “I’m proud that we never took our eyes off the ball.” Now, Ware is finally looking ahead. “Three weeks after the second hurricane I got a viewer hate mail about some political Among the challenges that KPLC’s John thing and I knew we were getting back to Ware had to handle in normal,” Ware said. 2020 was a storm that “We’re past the triage stage and are toppled the station’s thinking about how we can redesign the broadcast tower. building and also support our community.” ●
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KTVU’s Amber Eikel Stayed Ahead by Keeping Focused Hit early by COVID-19, Fox station’s newsroom chief took a proactive approach By Stuart Miller firstname.lastname@example.org @sfmsfm5186
Fox Television Stations
s a VP/news director in the Bay Area, Amber Eikel, of KTVU San Francisco and KICU San Jose (branded as KTVU Plus), knows that worrying about employee safety can take on many forms. There are stories to be covered in rough neighborhoods but also out in wildfires. To the latter point, Eikel’s supplies already included masks, when the pandemic, the most serious safety concern in living memory, exploded this spring. Eikel, who was promoted from assistant news director to her current role at the Fox-owned duopoly in San Francisco in 2017, strived to stay ahead of the worsening situation in mid-March. Even before a corporate directive was announced, Eikel was in action, creating a remote news
department with people working from home. Eikel credits both a stable company culture and a city where people work and travel internationally for the head start. “I was getting the sense from friends and neighbors that it was going to be bad, and we’d better get ready for it,” she said. “And once you start ripping the Band-Aid off, it’s all or nothing. You can’t send 20% of your workforce home. “I wanted to do it early and quick,” Eikel continued, “and I’m very lucky, because there are a lot of folks who have been here a long time, so we feel like a team and had the knowledge to pull off doing 12 ½ hours of news remotely each day.”
High Marks for Collaboration
Eikel began her career as a producer, executive producer and interim news director for KMIR Palm Springs, California. Prior to joining KTVU, she also had been executive producer at KIRO Seattle and before that at KTNV Las Vegas.
KTVU VP, news director Amber Eikel acted quickly when the pandemic came to light.
She also was a senior producer for WTMJ Milwaukee. She talks a lot in terms of “we,” which colleagues said is just her style, so don’t undervalue how much of what made the station’s handling of the pandemic came down to her. “She’s the most collaborative news director I’ve seen in,” KTVU senior VP, general manager Mellynda Hartel said. “She has strong communications skills working with her department, but also with me and with the other department heads. But she also has a can-do attitude, so when we had to go remote in three days, she just said, ‘We’ll figure it out.’ ” Eikel’s focus on the work never wavered. When Fox Television Stations launched CoronavirusNOW.COM, bringing viewers the most updated pandemic information, she lobbied for her squad to lead the way. When the site launched days later, KTVU delivered an original, two-hour live newscast in addition to its regular TV programming and they kept going with teams of an anchor, producer and director creating a new outlet for news. “We knew viewers wanted that information,” Eikel said, adding that her teams had to change their mindset from traditional TV news. “This is not a newscast. Sometimes, you can overthink the need for production and you can just put this out there and it’s OK if it’s an interview for seven minutes. We produced something that was easy for other Fox stations to replicate.”
Campaign Coverage In a Pandemic
She also led KTVU’s 2020 presidential election coverage, including a new graphic package, which she tested in advance. The station’s coverage NEWS DIRECTOR was virtually flawless OF THE YEAR on-air and technically, Amber Eikel, KTVU her Fox colleagues said. San Francisco After KTVU had left the building, Eikel routinely checked in on staff to see how they were faring mentally and physically in their remote work. (For those in the field or the few who had to be in the building she ensured they had the necessary safety resources.) Eikel said she retrained herself to make sure she checked in on anyone she hadn’t seen for a while. She also scheduled weekly open Zoom meetings where people could say hi; kept an open Zoom portal to replicate the newsroom, where people could break news or crack a joke; and had smaller staff meetings so no one felt left out. “She’s super-approachable,” assistant news director Shareef Abul-Ela said. “She never works from on high.” “Professionally, as news director, Amber is a terrific partner, and personally, I’m proud to say she is my friend,” Abul-Ela said. ●
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In 2020, Tegna’s Transition To Digital Was Complete
When pandemic hit, broadcaster was prepared with all-platform approach Verify’s audience on Snapchat is under age 25, a demographic that doesn’t often tune into local linear television. “From past experience, I knew it was a good platform for reaching a demographic that we don’t reach on TV or even on our websites and social media,” Ostrow said.
By Paige Albiniak email@example.com @PaigeA
he key to the success of Tegna is the years it spent preparing, long before anyone had even considered a global pandemic, to switch to a digitally-focused content approach. That preparation paid dividends in the difficult year that was 2020. “One of the things we have focused on in 2019 and 2020 is uniting our news and digital teams ‘Three Stories of so that we are all one Our Lifetime’ MULTIPLATFORM team,” Tegna VP of news It was all done just in Ellen Crooke said. “I time to cover what BROADCASTER OF might be VP of news, but I was possibly the THE YEAR work hand in hand with biggest year of news Tegna my partner, who is VP of in modern history, digital. We are one voice. with the pandemic, There is no longer any protests against police division between news and brutality and racial injustice, digital. We are one content team and the election. and that has made all the difference.” “Three stories of our lifetime happened Making that move required shifts on both the in one year while 80% to 90% of our teams were content and technology fronts. Content is working from their homes,” Crooke said. “How developed with an eye toward all platforms, as incredible is that?” opposed to producing it for television and “At Tegna, we believe our mission is to speak online in separate silos. To serve that vision, the truth,” she continued. “In 2020, it became Tegna created an entirely new content even clearer that our mission is to fight the management system (CMS) called Tegna One to spread of disinformation. We train our better serve the needs of its multiplatform television and digital journalists how to journalists. properly dispel and debunk misinformation “From the get-go, Tegna One has been really across all platforms.” well-received,” Tegna chief digital officer Adam Assisting with that effort is Tegna’s factOstrow said. “It was built in consultation with checking initiative, Verify, which is “something [the people who would be using it]. It was a our journalists came up with about four and a much needed change that allowed us to then half years ago,” Crooke said. move forward and innovate on digital With Verify, viewers and readers ask consumer products.” questions and Tegna’s journalists report out the Those products include new mobile apps that answer and then produce stories to answer Tegna also built itself, which now are available those questions. on such over-the-top (OTT) platforms as Roku “They are asking us as trusted local journaland Amazon Fire TV, as well as redesigned ists to let them know if something they heard websites optimized for mobile. Once all of that or read or saw that their Uncle Bob shared on was complete, the company launched “a unified Facebook is true,” Crooke said. “We go brand experience across all of our websites, so through a process, put our sources out front that there’s now a constant look and feel across and don’t use any second-hand sources so all of our platforms,” Ostrow said. that we can really let people know what is true Those moves paid off in 2020 with Tegna’s and what is false.” digital properties averaging more than 74 In August, Tegna started featuring Verify million monthly unduplicated multiplatform stories on Snapchat Discover and has since visitors from January through August 2020, reached 90 million daily active users in North according to Comscore. Visitors to Tegna America. Since then, the episodes have stations’ websites are up 80% year-to-date, attracted more than 80,000 subscribers and 3.2 while video plays are up more than 123%. million total unique viewers. More than half of
Turning to True Crime
Above, Tegna is using stories from its local stations as the basis for shows on its digital True Crime Network. Below, factchecking initiative Verify gives local Tegna journalists an outlet to debunk misinformation.
Along those lines, Tegna also is continuing to expand offerings from its Vault Studios, which produces true-crime podcasts. In 2020, Vault Studios launched three podcasts, including The Officer’s Wife and Selena: A Star Dies in Texas, which it produced in collaboration with all of Tegna’s Texas stations. Vault Studios launched with 2019’s Bomber, a six-episode podcast about Mark Anthony Conditt, who planted bombs around Austin in 2018 that killed two people and injured five. That podcast was produced from KVUE Austin and represented the start of an evolving business model. “A perfect example is that our digital team is housed within our news team and marketing is in lockstep with them,” KVUE presidennt and general manager Kristie Gonzales said. “When we produced the Bomber podcast, we distributed that through PodMe, we put it on YouTube and we also did news stories about the subject. We distributed it everywhere but customized it according to each platform. We are thinking through every channel.” Tegna is turning some of those local true-crime stories into original video episodes for its True Crime Network, rebranded from Justice in July. Over the summer, Tegna launched True Crime Network as a standalone streaming service with the app available on Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV, via mobile and tablet on iOS and Android devices and on the web. “People really like true-crime stories and [those fans] are among the most loyal and passionate audience out there,” Brian Weiss, president and general manager of True Crime Network and Quest, said. “But the other benefit — and I think this gets to the story of Tegna and its multiplatform success — is that the rebrand was brought about because Tegna also was doing other things in the true-crime space. True Crime Network, the brand, can provide true-crime content wherever audiences may be —- on broadcast, cable, streaming or via podcasts. The True Crime Network is bringing all of those assets together.” Said Crooke: “These days, everything we produce is everywhere. We rarely even say digital anymore.” ●
Big Thinkers Are Figuring Out Tomorrow’s TV After Tumultuous 2020
fter an unprecedented 2020, the television industry has much to do, and Broadcasting+Cable has put together this Watch List of the people leading the efforts to redefine television. The list focuses not so much on the corner-office denizens who have long called the shots, but more on the next generation of trendsetters and game-changers. As the pandemic took hold, stay-at-home orders ramped up the shift to streaming and set off a scramble to be more efficient, with many businesses shut down, conferences canceled and executives working from home, conducting meetings over Zoom. Giant companies reorganized, small businesses adjusted and startups formed to take advantage of new opportunities. In some cases, that means developing programming for multiple platforms. In others, it means chasing consumers as they form new viewing habits. In some cases, new technology is causing disruption. In others, technology is the solution. Sometimes it’s both. Within each organization, CEOs tasked people with finding better ways to get things done and to make that happen — or else. These key individuals and their teams will be doing the work and how successful they are will tell the story of 2021. And that’s why we’ll be watching.
FROM THE EDITORS OF 24 Broadcastingcable.com
THE WATCH LIST 2020
Chief Media and Business Officer, National Football League
1 [Decline in pay TV is] going to mean some changes in the future, which we’re trying to think through.”
Top TV execs are tightening up their chin straps as NFL rights negotiation season approaches. NFL games represent TV’s most powerful content, accounting for 22 of the 25 top-rated telecasts this year, and determine the winners and losers in the media world. ESPN’s $1.9 billion a year deal for “Monday Night Football” expires after the 2021 season. The league’s deals with Fox, NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS and DirecTV, worth a total of $4 billion a year, expire after the 2022 season. Bet that the new deals will be more. Wall Street knows how important the NFL is to networks and analysts pepper earnings calls with questions about discussions with the league. Last month, Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch called the NFL “our No. 1 programming partner” and tried to assure investors that “we look forward to continuing that partnership.” Lining up for the NFL is Brian Rolapp, chief media and business officer for the league since 2017. The NFL’s objective — beyond getting as much revenue as it can — remains “maximizing
the availability and reach of football and making sure that, locally, you can watch your team,” he said. But the decline in pay TV is creating a more fragmented landscape, making reaching humongous audiences more difficult. “That’s going to mean some changes in the future, which we’re trying to think through,” he said. To see what the NFL is thinking, look at “Thursday Night Football,” a combination of broadcast with Fox, cable with the NFL Network and streaming with Amazon Prime Video. Rolapp said Thursday has been the NFL’s “strategic game package” and that its digital viewership is now bigger than the audiences other sports get on television. Another experiment comes when playoff games go digital on CBS All Access and Peacock. Will that build reach? “We’ll find out,” Rolapp said. “We applaud their efforts to figure out how to innovate in this changing world, and we certainly want them to be successful.” Rolapp doesn’t expect COVID to depress how much money the NFL will seek, or how much partners will be willing to pay. “We have not seen a lack of interest because of economic concerns,” he noted. — Jon Lafayette
CEO Jason Kilar, 49, tends to be ahead of the curve. In 1997, after earning his MBA at Harvard, Kilar joined a company that was selling books over the internet called Amazon. For nearly a decade, he held a variety of leadership roles there, helping it grow into the behemoth it is today. Then, before most of America really even knew what streaming was, Kilar left Amazon to become founding CEO of a streaming startup called Hulu. By 2013, he had led the company to more than $1 billion in revenue. Along the way, he issued a 2011 blog as a manifesto that became famous in the industry for challenging the status quo (and his corporate bosses). “History has shown that incumbents tend to fight trends that challenge established ways and, in the process, lose focus on what matters most: customers,” he wrote, critiquing traditional TV for having too many ads and the industry as a whole for not understanding how people want to be able to control when and on what screens they can watch their programming. It also explored the importance of understanding the influence of social media. In 2013, Kilar became co-founder and CEO of Vessel, a next-
generation online video service, bought by Verizon Communications in 2016. He also served on the boards of Dreamworks Animation and Brighter and is currently on the board of Univision Communications, Opendoor, Wealthfront and Habitat for Humanity International. Now at WarnerMedia, Kilar has quickly made an impact. While he acknowledged a large learning curve in the cable and film sides when he started in the spring — not to mention a pandemic and a shaky economy that is changing business dynamics daily — there clearly was confidence in his penchant for being detail-oriented yet also trusting of department heads. Not surprisingly, he has emphasized the centrality of streaming and HBO Max in the company’s future. He also showed confidence in his grasp of the company’s situation. In August, three top executives — Robert Greenblatt, Kevin Reilly and Keith Cocozza — suddenly found themselves out of a job, with Kilar saying in interviews, “Disciplined companies have to make tough decisions.” — Stuart Miller
BRIAN ROLAPP GROUP: BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES
Chief Executive Officer, WarnerMedia
istory has shown that incumbents tend H to fight trends that challenge established ways and ... lose focus” on the customers.
THE WATCH LIST 2020
President and CEO, ViacomCBS Streaming
Ryan’s career as an entrepreneur, before he became overseer of ViacomCBS’s critically important global streaming strategy, journeyed through the music world (CDuctive, back in the days of custom CDs and Smule, a custom singing app) and the clothing world (Threadless and Trunk Club) before he entered TV as the co-founder and CEO of Pluto TV. “Since I became an entrepreneur back in the mid-’90s, I’ve always been highly focused on the consumer,” he said. “And I’ve also been a contrarian — to find the best opportunities you have to look for the white space where no one else is.” Contrarian doesn’t mean going against the grain just for the sake of it, Ryan added: “It isn’t just being different; it’s also about what will be highly sought after and what can be done better.” At each of his stops, along with his new role, he has come to understand the “power of curation. It’s the paradox of choice, too much of which can be paralyzing so you need to curate for the consumer.” In his new role, a promotion in October,
Vice President, Global TV, Netflix
Perhaps no one made a bigger 2020 splash in streaming video than Bajaria. Bajaria’s elevation to Netflix’s top programming job, displacing 17-year veteran Cindy Holland, stunned Hollywood. Baharia then did Netflix’s version of the restructuring hitting Hollywood, work she’s still doing. “I’m focused on building my global team so that we’re structured for the next five years,” she said in an email interview. “I wanted to put in place a structure that eliminated silos and leaned into everyone’s strengths. And I wanted it to be really user-friendly and clear for creators who want to work with us.” As executives left, show pitchers were still confused. But the restructuring sets up Netflix for the global content battles to come. Simply put, as Hollywood studios’ streamers focus on winning the U.S. market, Netflix wants to win in nearly 200 countries. “We don’t talk about the U.S. and
Ryan will have plenty of consumers. He is overseeing the company’s global streaming strategy across both paid and free services, including CBS All Access, which will relaunch as Paramount Plus with a vast library of TV episodes along with hundreds of movies from the Paramount library in early 2021, and Pluto TV, the leading free streaming television service. (The latter, which was acquired by Viacom for $340 million in 2019, is free and ad-supported streaming; in the third quarter it grew domestic monthly active users 57% to 28.4 million.) “I’m super excited about our opportunities in both the free and paid arenas,” Ryan said. “We are well-positioned with a world-class brand that has near universal awareness in almost every major market globally. We will bring that to bear at the intersection of free and paid, so that consumers of our free content on Pluto TV can be funneled into paying for premium content and originals and people who churn out, because some do, can be kept in our ecosystem with Pluto TV.” — Stuart Miller
he most important thing is that T our stories are locally relevant ... and when we do that really well, they travel the world on Netflix.” label everything else as ‘international,’” Bajaria said. “Everything really is local, no matter where you live. The most important thing is that our stories are locally relevant and authentic, and when we do that really well, they travel the world on Netflix. Books have done this for centuries, and we’ve seen music do it in recent years with hip-hop and K-pop. We have more members outside the U.S. than within, but there’s enormous opportunity in both in the coming years.” Bajaria will draw on her globetrotting background (a former Miss India USA, she lived in London until age nine) and international programming experience (including hit co-productions such as “Star Trek: Discovery” and “Bodyguard”). Among the 50-plus productions finished since the pandemic, Bajaria tabs two as must-watch: Cobra Kai’s season 3, and a reboot of durable French character Arsene Lupin. What Bajaria isn’t doing is worrying about competition. “We can’t focus on the road ahead if we’re looking over our shoulders,” she said. “So I try and stay focused on what’s best for Netflix and our members and not pay a lot of attention to what others are doing. It’s a competitive space, but it’s not zero sum.” — David Bloom
THE WATCH LIST 2020
Chairman, Universal Studio Group, Comcast NBCUniversal
This has been a difficult year for everybody and every business, yet Pearlena Igbokwe, who was promoted this fall to chairman, Universal Studio Group, doesn’t see obstacles. “All I see is opportunity,” declared Igbokwe, who is now responsible for all aspects of creative affairs and production for Universal Television, Universal Content Productions (UCP) and NBCUniversal International Studios, reporting directly to Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal. “The opportunity to share resources and talent across our four content production businesses; the opportunity to tell meaningful, impactful stories no matter the format; and the opportunity to bring our global teams together with the common goal of creating great television.” Igbowke oversees production of more than 2,500 hours of programming currently airing or streaming around the globe, but it’s an extension of a role in which she has repeatedly proven her chops. For the past four years, she was president, Universal Television, with dominion over creative development, casting and production for the studio. Her tenure produced the sitcom
“The Good Place,” the acclaimed “Russian Doll” and a new Dick Wolf franchise “FBI.” Igbokwe said she was most proud that “we were able to grow our volume of series by 100%. We produced approximately 25 series when I first arrived in 2016 and by early 2020, we were up to 50 series at 12 different networks or platforms.” Programming has long been a passion for Igbowke. In earlier positions she developed the top-rated new broadcast dramas for three out of her four years in the role, including “The Blacklist,” and “This Is Us.” During her 20 years at Showtime she helped shepherd into existence “Masters of Sex” and “Nurse Jackie,” among others, and was involved in developing the pilot and overseeing the first five seasons of “Dexter.” Life at the top removes her further from day-to-day creative development, Igbowke acknowledged. “But I work with people who have instincts that I trust, and my job is to make sure they have all the resources they need to make hit shows,” she said. “I still watch dailies and cuts and read scripts, so I’m not too far away from the process. I can’t help myself.” — Stuart Miller
[Rather than obstacles], all I see, is opportunity.”
PEARLENA IGBOKWE: PHILLIP FARAONE/WIREIMAGE
Executive Vice President, Chief Technology Officer, Nexstar Media Group
As broadcasters race to attract a new generation of viewers, the tech strategies being implemented by Jenkins will be worth watching over the next year. Jenkins’ efforts to use technology to improve Nexstar’s business builds on a long career of innovation, including work on digital broadcast technologies for a variety of broadcast equipment vendors and senior tech jobs at Ion Media, LIN Media and Media General. He assumed his current position in 2017 after Nexstar acquired Media General. As the nation’s largest broadcast group, with 197 TV stations and significant digital and cable network operations, Nexstar faces a rapidly changing media landscape. “Tech is bringing a lot of disruption to so many areas,” Jenkins said. “But I feel really privileged to be in a position to think about applying technologies to our businesses in ways that will help us navigate all these disruptions. Hopefully, we can look at these disruptions as opportunities, not problems.” One major opportunity is the NextGen TV standard ATSC 3.0. Implementing ATSC 3.0 will help stations do a much better job of improving their traditional business of delivering content to consumers by allowing them to broadcast higherresolution video, improved audio, new interactive
services and advanced advertising systems, Jenkins explained. Beyond that, Jenkins noted that ATSC 3.0 will enable a much more robust broadcast platform, opening up opportunities to offer spectrum and services to other companies in such areas as automotive, the internet of things or content distribution. “We are still in early launch mode, but we will have stations in 12 or maybe 13 markets lit up with ATSC 3.0 by the end of this year and another 20 or so next year,” providing ATSC 3.0 signals on Nexstar stations to about 30% of the country by the start of 2022, he said. Jenkins has also been playing a major role in the Television Interface Practices (TIP) initiative to develop standards that will help stations better compete against digital media by automating and streamlining the buying process. “TIP will benefit not just Nexstar, but the whole industry by making it easier for buyers” to buy local TV ads, he said. — George Winslow
THE WATCH LIST 2020
Chief Investment Officer, GroupM
Sweeney came to his new post from Xaxis, GroupM’s programmatic media arm, signaling a new approach to a changing media landscape. Sales execs call him very strategic and a great partner. “He learned extraordinarily quickly and he was well prepared for the upfront,” said an ad-sales head from a top media company who asked not to be identified. But before getting to the upfront, Sweeney had to deal with the pandemic on behalf of his clients. “We ranked our preferred partners based on how flexible they were with us through COVID when we needed to move or even cancel some dollars,” Sweeney said. Now, GroupM is judging them on delivering on their upfront guarantees. Ratings have eroded, but might rebound as scripted shows return to schedules. Media companies are responding well. “We expect that to continue because it will impact what budgets look like in next year’s upfront,” Sweeney said. “If you can’t deliver consistently, why would I not option dollars away from you and put them where they can have the greatest impact for our clients?” At a time when some wondered if there would
be an upfront, Sweeney convinced GroupM clients to mostly buy at the traditional time, a strategy validated by a scatter market where prices are high and little inventory remains available. “We have to expand on the definition of TV and go beyond traditional pay TV,” he said, noting that one needs only to follow the money to see that media companies are investing in programming, data and technology to pursue more direct-to-consumer business. Similarly, ad dollars are increasingly following viewers towards streaming with outlets owned by the big media companies such as Hulu, Peacock and Pluto TV. “We have to make sure there’s value there,” he said, adding that the industry needs to collaborate so advertisers can measure and optimize across media brands. Sweeney is not the only digital guy who believes TV advertising remains powerful. Some of the smartest, data-driven marketers — Amazon, Google, Facebook — spend more money on TV than they did three years ago as a percentage of their marketing budgets, he said. “There’s still tremendous value there.” — Jon Lafayette
TREVOR NOAH: GAVIN BOND; TREVOR NOAH GROUP: ASHLEY VLOTMAN/GALLO IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES
Host, ‘The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,’ Comedy Central
Noah may not have the decision-making power of the top executives on this list, but he is perhaps its most widely recognized face. And in a presidential election year, during a pandemic and months of social-justice protests, his was an important voice in the comedy world and also the cultural landscape. Early in the pandemic, he paved the way as the first late-night host to shift to doing shows from his home, beginning March 23. (He also has paid the salaries of about two dozen furloughed staffers.) Steering away from the laughs, he gave National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci 13 minutes of airtime on March 26. In a subsequent interview, Noah explained that he worried about experts and facts being sidelined for opinions. “American news generally is geared more
toward entertainment and engagement than information, because information can be very boring,” he said. “We needed to give this expert a platform.” (The show was viewed on YouTube nearly 12million times.) As the only Black host of a major late-night show, he also offered a unique perspective on the George Floyd killing and subsequent protests, explaining clearly and potently why, in some early cases, the protests shifted into violence and looting. (Noah, who is from South Africa, is interracial; his background is explored in incisive detail in his acclaimed memoir, “Born a Crime.”) He also pushed the limits of linear television this year, persuading Comedy Central to extend the show to 45 minutes to allow more time for interviews, even if it meant the show no longer neatly fit the traditional half-hour time slots. But Noah is more than just his nightly time on Comedy Central on the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning show. (The show earned six Emmy Award nominations in 2020.) He has helped the show move into the modern era, breaking free of the linear constraints with engaging social media content, including an award-winning digital series and podcasts for his global audience. This year, “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” earned Webby Awards for Best in Comedy and Best Web Personality/ Host.” — Stuart Miller
THE WATCH LIST 2020
Chairman of Disney General Entertainment Content, The Walt Disney Co.
Rice, who joined The Walt Disney Co. when 21st Century Fox was acquired last year, is king of the Magic Kingdom when it comes to television content. He is responsible for the mine that produces more than 4,500 hours of TV programming a month. He’s also responsible for sorting which shows go to which outlet, a new “Mandalorian” for high-profile streaming service Disney Plus, another “Bachelor” for ABC to broadcast or a “Fargos” for FX and “Duck Tails” for Disney Channel on cable, and even election coverage on ABC News. Disney has pivoted to streaming, which has changed everything from the way its business is structured to the way it measures results. In October, Disney CEO Bob Chapek separated the people who create content from those concerned with profit and loss, distribution, advertising and technology, including managing Disney’s streaming services and domestic TV networks. Rice explained the new mandate in a Nov. 10 memo to his staff: “For our team, this means we will wholly focus our resources and efforts on developing, producing and marketing exceptional content to fuel the company’s
streaming and linear platforms while our colleagues at Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution will distribute and monetize that content and run the linear networks and streaming platforms.” Most of Rice’s group had been focused on linear TV networks. “As we look to the future and how consumers choose to watch their programming, this reorganization is an opportunity for us to fully focus on what we do best, making great programming for viewers wherever they choose to watch their favorite shows,” he said in the memo. Making better television — and lots of it — might be Disney’s key advantage as it challenges Netflix for streaming superiority. The new structure should let him stick to storytelling in a business where successful creative executives tend to get bigger and bigger loads of business and administrative duties heaped on them. “He was already functioning as head of the television studio and spent about 75% of his time on development, talent and scaling production,” an exec familiar with the situation said. “I think he’s really happy with this.” — Jon Lafayette
Steve Rosenberg Since taking over as president of Local Sports in July of 2020, Steve Rosenberg has found himself in a closely watched position that will have important implications both for the broadcaster and the future of regional sports networks. Sinclair partnered with media entrepreneur Byron Allen to purchase the Fox Sports Regional Networks in 2019 for $9.6 billion from The Walt Disney Co. following its acquisition of 21st Century Fox. At the time, there were already concerns about the future of regional sports networks, given the rising cost of sports rights and the impact of cord-cutting on subscriber fees. Those issues became much more worrisome with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which dramatically reduced the amount of live sports. Dish, Sling, YouTube TV, Hulu and fuboTV have dropped the channels from their lineups. In its Q3 2020 earnings, Sinclair wrote down the value of its RSNs by $4.2 billion and reported that it will have to pay $371 million in rebates in 2020 to MVPDs for failing to deliver enough live sports. The Wall Street Journal has also reported debtrestructuring talks between lenders and the Diamond Sports, the Sinclair subsidiary that runs the channels. Since then, promising news from vaccine trials has pushed up Sinclair’s stock and Sinclair executives remain bullish on the RSNs’ prospects. On Sinclair’s
Q3 2020 earnings calls, President and CEO Chris Ripley stressed: “We’re very excited about the growth opportunities we have with the RSN [regional sports networks] .... [S]ports betting … we think is going to be a game-changer. And we intend on reinventing the RSNs around gamification, around community-based fandom and around direct-to-consumer [streaming apps].” To implement those strategies, Rosenberg brings an impressive resumé with experience working in the television, entertainment and sports industry, including a 20-year stint at Universal. He also has a particularly strong background in distribution, marketing and sales that will help the networks find new audiences and revenue streams. Turnaround hopes depend on the impact of COVID-19. How quickly the 42 major league teams that supply games to the networks can resume full game schedules in 2021 remains an open question. Sinclair declined to comment for this profile. — George Winslow
Ready to roll out Marquee Sports at Wrigley Field (from l.): Jorge Vazquez, controller; Vincent Sollecito, senior VP, ad sales; Michael McCarthy, general manager; and Amy McDevitt, VP, marketing.
STEVE ROSENBERG GROUP: DAVID DUROCHIK
President, Local Sports, Sinclair Broadcast Group
THE WATCH LIST 2020
President and Senior Executive Producer, CBS News
Zirinsky was named to oversee CBS News in March 2019 and, within her first nine months, overhauled the news division, including launching the “CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell.” She also named new leadership and new executive producers of several flagship programs including “CBS This Morning” and “60 Minutes.” She began her career in the CBS News Washington bureau two weeks after the Watergate break-in.
16 Marianne Gambelli
President of Advertising Sales, Fox
11 Jennifer Salke
Head of Amazon Studios
Salke oversees all television and film development, as well as production for Amazon’s global entertainment division. Hits at Amazon under her aegis include the TV series “The Boys” and the movie “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” She joined in 2018, after a sexual harassment scandal forced out Roy Price, and is credited in leading Amazon to become a “storytelling powerhouse,” as Elle magazine put it. At NBC and at 20th Century Fox Television, she was a major force behind some of TV’s most successful comedy and drama series, including “This Is Us” and “The Blacklist.”
12 Scott N. Brown
General Manager, Audience Measurement, Nielsen
Brown is responsible for innovating Nielsen’s measurement products and driving the unification of its linear TV, advanced TV and digital solutions. Nielsen said it would be adding data from 55 million set-top boxes and smart TVs to its national TV currency, allowing it to measure addressable advertising. Under Brown’s leadership, Nielsen is overhauling its digital measurement methodology enabling the company to create an independent platform that can adapt to privacy and policy changes.
13 Lisa Knutson
Executive VP and Chief Financial Officer, The E.W. Scripps Co.
When Scripps completes its acquisition of Ion Media in 2021, Knutson will lead the company’s new national television networks business, overseeing operations of the combined businesses of Ion Media, the five Katz networks and Newsy. As CFO, she has led the company’s financial operations, corporate development and strategic planning and manages functions including IT and risk management. She played a key role in the merger-and-spinoff deal between Scripps and Journal Communications in 2015.
14 Wade C. Davis
Incoming CEO, Univision Communications Inc.
In February 2020, Davis’s investment firm, ForgeLight, and partners agreed to acquire a majority stake in Spanish-language media giant Univision. Davis will be CEO when the deal closes. He has talked up Univision’s potential with the Spanishlanguage U.S. population. Before founding ForgeLight, Davis was EVP and CFO of Viacom, helping to drive a turnaround of the business and pave the way for the $50 billion merger of Viacom and CBS. 32 Broadcastingcable.com
Gambelli, a leading figure on Madison Ave., oversees all linear and nonlinear sales across Fox’s portfolio of brands, including Fox Broadcasting, Fox Sports, FS1, FS2, Fox Deportes, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network and the latest acquisition, ad-supported streaming service Tubi. Earlier, Fox News experienced record years in ad sales when Gambelli was advertising sales president for Fox News and Fox Business Network. Before Fox, she was at Horizon Media and spent 22 years at NBC.
17 Robin Roberts
Co-Anchor, “Good Morning America”, ABC
With big interviews like the first sit-down with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris after they announced their historic ticket this summer, Roberts helped keep “GMA” the number one morning show for the ninth consecutive year. In October, she sat down for an exclusive interview with Judge Esther Salas, whose 20-year-old son was killed and her husband wounded in a racially motivated assault. Her production company, Rock’n Robin Productions, creates original programming for ABC and other networks.
18 David Sambur
Co-Lead Partner, Private Equity, Apollo Global Management
Sambur set his sights on the TV business in 2019 acquiring Cox Media Group and Northwest Broadcasting. With Apollo’s resources and the benefits of scale in broadcasting, that’s seen as a good start. COVID-19 slowed dealmaking in 2020, but Apollo will have its checkbook open in 2021. It likes the growing revenue from retransmission and sees political advertising as a business it can cultivate, in addition to stations. Apollo is reportedly talking to AT&T about DirecTV. We’ll be watching.
19 Ann Sarnoff
Chair and CEO, WarnerMedia Studios and Network Group
Sarnoff was named to her position in August and brings 30 years of industry experience to bear in overseeing all of WarnerMedia’s content-focused teams, uniting the Warner Bros. Pictures Group, HBO and HBO Max, the Warner Bros. Television Group, DC, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Boomerang, TCM, Cartoon Network Studios, WB Animation, TBS, TNT, truTV, Wizarding World, consumer products and gaming. She was chair and CEO of Warner Bros., the industry’s first female studio head.
20 Miguel Penella
President of SVOD, AMC Networks
Penella’s record of building successful subscription video-on-demand products and brands for AMC Networks was rewarded in September with an expanded role. He added the
AMC Plus premium service to his purview, which included Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now and UMC. Shudder has passed the 1-million-subscriber mark, as Acorn TV had a year earlier. AMC acquired Acorn TV and UMC in 2018 as part of RLJ Entertainment, where he was CEO.
21 Michael Barrett
President and Chief Executive Officer, Magnite Inc.
Riding a wave of consolidation, Magnite was created in 2020 as Rubicon Project bought Telaria, combining ad-selling platforms in hopes of grabbing more of the connected TV ad market. President and CEO Barrett had held that position at Rubicon Project. Prior to that, he was president and CEO at Millennial Media. A former Google and Yahoo executive, Barrett also was president and founder of Ichabod Farm Ventures LLC.
22 Jordan Peele
Founder and CEO, Monkey Paw Productions
Peele gained big screen accolades from his 2017 Academy Award-winning directorial debut “Get Out,” followed by the 2019 box office hit “Us.” On the small screen Peele — through his production company Monkeypaw Productions — put his stamp on Netflix’s 2019 reboot of “The Twilight Zone,” as both executive producer and narrator. In 2020 he collaborated on Amazon Prime Video’s Nazi-targeting vigilante drama series “Hunters” before drawing raves for his company’s HBO series “Lovecraft Country.”
23 Beau Ferrari
Chairman, NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises
Chairman Ferrari succeeded Cesar Conde in the job in May. He oversees the company’s multiplatform portfolio, including the Telemundo broadcast network, which is now the No. 1 Spanishlanguage network. Reporting directly to Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, Ferrari had been EVP of NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises since 2017. He joined NBCU from Univision Communications.
24 Kenya Barris Producer
Barris is an award-winning writer, producer and director nrdy known for his Peabody Award-winning sitcom, “Black-ish”, at ABC. With a focus on socially conscious storytelling that reflects our culture and tackles contemporary issues, his work has earned him praise for telling stories that make audiences more aware of the world around them while making them laugh. Current projects include “Black-ish” and spinoffs, “Grownish” and “Mixed-ish,” with a third spinoff, “Old-ish,” in the works.
25 John Landgraf
Chairman, FX, Disney General Entertainment Content
Along with Landgraf’s official title, he’s unofficially known by critics as the mayor of television for his astute observations on the industry. He positioned FX for the future when FX on Hulu was launched earlier this year. FX’s streaming hub offers its own originals, including “Mrs. America” and “A Teacher.” FX shows have long played like indie films, despite the basic cable limitations. In the streaming world, those strictures don’t exist.
JENNIFER SALKE: GETTY IMAGES/AMY SUSSMAN; WADE C. DAVIS: ©DARIO ACOSTA ; SUSAN ZIRINSKY : CBS; ROBIN ROBERTS: ABC; DAVID SAMBUR: GETTY IMAGES; ANN SARNOFF: ROBERT VOETS / 2019 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. ; JORDAN PEELE: RODIN ECKENROTH; KENYA BARRIS: MATT SAYLES; JOHN LANDGRAF: AMY SUSSMAN
15 Susan Zirinsky
THE WATCH LIST 2020
Chairman, Media and Entertainment Distribution, The Walt Disney Co.
KAREEM DANIEL: IMAGE GROUP LA
Starting in the mailroom and rising to the top is a Hollywood trope. But Daniel didn’t even begin at The Walt Disney Co. as an employee: his first position was as an intern. This fall, the 46-year-old Daniel became chairman of Disney’s new distribution division and the first Black person to be a division head, reporting directly to the CEO Bob Chapek. That intern title is a bit misleading, though. Daniel wasn’t a college freshman but a Stanford University MBA candidate. After that internship, Daniel actually spent three years at Goldman Sachs before joining Disney in 2007. As a child, the Chicago native loved movies but has said in the past, “I never imagined that there was a business side to entertainment.” At Disney, he proved how much he learned as part of the team involved in the purchases of Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm that have spearheaded Disney’s revenue in the past decade. Prior to his promotion, Daniel was president of Consumer Products, Games and Publishing, overseeing the creation and delivery of products across a variety of channels — including Disney Store and Disney Parks (bringing to life “Star Wars” and “The
I never imagined that there was a business side to entertainment.”
Avengers” in that arena) — while managing the licensing organization spanning numerous categories. Daniel also oversaw the games and interactive experiences businesses plus Disney Publishing Worldwide. In his new role, Daniel’s landscape grows even more. He oversees the organization responsible for the P&L management and all distribution, network and engineering operations, sales, advertising and data worldwide for all content engines. And with streaming revenues vital to survival, he is also responsible for the operations of Disney’s streaming services and domestic television networks while working in close collaboration with creative leaders across the company on content budgeting, as well as programming decisions and the execution of marketing campaigns. Disney’s most recent numbers — Hulu Plus Live TV, 4.1 million subscribers; Hulu VOD, 32.5 million subscribers; ESPN Plus, 10.3 million subscribers; and Disney Plus, 73.7 million subscribers — show Daniel is off to a good start in his new role and he has a healthy platform from which to work his (Disney) magic. — Stuart Miller
President, Consumer Services, Comcast Cable
Strong is in charge of Comcast Cable’s main profit center and the backbone for which its content services flow — Xfinity video, mobile and broadband. So far, Strong, who joined Comcast in 2018 after nearly two decades with Liberty Global where she held senior executive leadership roles, has risen to the challenge. Comcast reported the strongest quarterly broadband subscriber growth in its history, 633,000, in the third quarter, and signs all point to that momentum continuing. Strong has been a big proponent of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program to bring low-cost broadband to low-income households. Since 2011, Internet Essentials has connected more than 8 million people with high-speed service. “With learning looking very different this year across the country, we want to help give our educators the connectivity they need to support America’s youth during these unprecedented times,” Strong said in a statement. Adding to broadband’s allure is Xfinity Flex, which gives broadband-only customers access to streaming services like Peacock, Hulu, CBS All Access, Netflix and Amazon Prime. Flex crossed 1 million devices deployed in May and
has been a big part of overall broadband growth. “Flex was designed to fit seamlessly into the lives of our internet-only customers,” she said in another statement. “We are thrilled our customers are quickly embracing this device on such a large scale.” While broadband appears to have a lot of growth runway left, the mobile business also presents opportunity. Comcast launched Xfinity mobile in April 2017, and currently has about 2.6 million customers. In Q3, Comcast added about 187,000 Xfinity Mobile customers, but the company increasingly sees the service as a gateway to its other products. During its Q3 earnings call, Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson said Comcast wireless growth has been “material” for several quarters, despite closing down retail stores because of the pandemic. With those stores now reopened, and by bundling wireless with all of its products, not just broadband, Watson sees accelerated growth ahead. “We’re already seeing, as we put our shoulder to bringing things back, some real early-stage success in terms of what mobile can do,” Watson said on the call. — Mike Farrell
THE WATCH LIST 2020
Chair, President and CEO, Cable One
Cable One set the trend for the rest of the industry back in 2013, deemphasizing video and setting the stage for the emergence of streaming services that dominate the business today. Laulis has been an integral part of that transition, one followed by virtually every other cable operator since. She said former Cable One CEO Tom Might caught sight of some early signs of the decline of video that the team modeled out over time. “We felt this trend was inevitable, so we embraced it and gained further confidence in our strategy given our early results,” Laulis said. “While we had the foresight to ‘skate to the puck,’ we could not predict whether the timing was right. But by 2016, these higher growth and higher margin products made up a majority of our revenues for the first time, which dramatically improved our profitability in large part because we were no longer subsidizing video.” That switch helped fuel the company to an unprecedented period of growth. Since splitting from Graham Holdings (parent of The Washington Post Co.) in 2015, Cable One stock has been the top performer in the sector, rising more than five-fold from $399.85 to $2,021.25 per share in five years. Laulis got her start in the cable business 35 years ago with Hauser Communications, later moving to Jones Communications. Since 1999, she has held several roles within Cable One ranging from marketing to operations and customer service, which has given her a breadth of experience across all lines of the company’s business, culminating in being named president and CEO in 2017 and, a year later, chair of the board. While Cable One has profited from the switch in focus to broadband, Laulis is not ready to call the video business dead. She believes video still plays a vital role in informing and entertaining the public, even as consumers have myriad more choices and options to access that information today. “So rather than saying video isn’t an option, it seems more likely that video as we know it today will continue to evolve,” she said. — Mike Farrell
Tedd Cittadine Vice President of Content Distribution, Roku
With the pandemic dramatically accelerating the importance of streaming, Roku has emerged as the leading platform, with 46 million active accounts in Q3 2020, up 43% from a year earlier and triple the 15.1 million accounts at the end of Q2 in 2017. By way of comparison, Roku’s active account base was now more than double Comcast’s 20 million residential and business video subscribers in Q3 2020. That has made Cittadine, who oversees Roku’s content strategy, acquisition and partner channel development, a powerful force in the TV and movie business. Cittadine came to Roku with a resumé that includes an MBA from Georgetown University, work in corporate banking and expertise in digital media and the movie industry from a 2006 to 2017 stint at 20th Century Fox. In 2017, he joined Roku in his current role, overseeing Roku’s content strategy, acquisition and partner channel development. A big part of the job, he said, is helping channel providers grow their subscription, advertising and content sales businesses. “When Disney’s ‘Mulan’ launched over Labor Day weekend, more people watched Disney Plus on Roku than all other streaming platforms combined,” he said. That has helped programmers expand their streaming businesses but it is also crucial for Roku, which takes a cut of those revenues. In Q3 2020, Roku’s Platform business, which includes licensing and advertising, grew by 78% compared to a year earlier. How those streaming revenues should be divided has also touched off some contentious negotiations with streaming services like HBO
e believe we have W an opportunity to make these new services incredibly successful.”
Max, which is still not on the Roku platform. The standard distribution agreement publicly available on Roku’s website indicates that it asks for 20% of subscription fees and 30% of ad revenue. “We believe we have an opportunity to make these new services incredibly successful,” Cittadine explained. “We are the largest streaming platform in the world and we believe that these services need Roku in order to be successful. We are really excited about structuring agreements that will … allow them to create a tremendous amount of value and allow us to share in a fair amount of value. There is a lot at stake.” — George Winslow Broadcastingcable.com
THE WATCH LIST 2020
Commissioner, National Basketball Association
obody thought we N were going to spend months in a [bubble].”
The 2020 coronavirus pandemic forced the shutdown of all major pro sports this past spring, but no sport rebounded better than the National Basketball Association. After shutting its 2019–20 season down in March, the league — under the leadership of Silver — began work on an innovative gameplan to resume the season safely within a quarantined environment in Florida that would host the league’s truncated regular and postseason schedule. The Los Angeles Lakers in late October emerged from the nearly three-month bubble experience with the NBA Finals trophy after defeating the Miami Heat. Ratings for the competitive, six-game championship series were subpar, but competition was extreme against the NHL’s Stanley Cup Finals, MLB’s World Series and the NFL regular season. The “bubble” scenario at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex was unprecedented in its scope and operations, but achievable because of Silver’s dogged determination to see it through. Silver brought together a range of groups — including the NBA Players Association along with its television partners, as well as health
Executive Vice President & Chief Technology Officer, Charter Communications
ADAM SILVER: PHOTO BY STACY REVERE/GETTY IMAGES
With broadband services a necessity for people working from home and kids taking online classes during the pandemic, cable operators have been scrambling to build networks that can be even faster and more capable in the future. That makes the tech moves by Mitchko-Beale, Charter’s top technologist, particularly newsworthy. Work on the transition to blazingly fast 10G networks, efforts to expand its mobile offerings and plans to use artificial intelligence and data analytics to offer more reliable services are all part of an ambitious tech roadmap. Inspired by her father’s career in engineering, Mitchko-Beale got an engineering degree at New York University’s Polytechnic School of Engineering in 1987, and then worked in a variety of high tech jobs before joining Cablevision Systems in 1999. During a 15-year stint at the cable company, she earned two Technical Emmys and one Emmy for interactive TV as she worked on a variety of cutting-edge technologies, including the launch of high-speed data services, advanced advertising systems and the first U.S. cloud DVR deployment. Mitchko-Beale further honed her skills in software development and data analytics between
2015 and 2019 at Cadent before rejoining some of her old Cablevision colleagues at No. 2 U.S. cable company Charter Communications. Rapid growth in broadband services, which boosted Charter’s internet customers to 28.6 million in Q3 2020, make the transition to even faster networks an important part of the company’s tech roadmap. “We’re working closely with the industry and CableLabs on 10G,” a suite of technologies that will offer 10-gigabit speeds, she said. Mitchko-Beale stressed, though, that network upgrades are “an evolutionary process” that involve a range of technologies. “We are working on some big programs around home Wi-Fi, improving the reliability of our network, mobile and the whole idea of using data to improve business operations,” she said. To speed the pace of innovation, diversity is also a top priority. “I really believe that great ideas are born from input from all different types of people,” said Mitchko-Beale, who recalls being the only woman in her college engineering classes and is one of very few women overseeing tech operations and strategies at a major company. — George Winslow
officials on call to administer strict COVID-19 protocols. “Nobody thought we were going to spend months in a [bubble],” Silver said during a recent Reuters interview prior to the league’s Nov. 19 NBA Draft. “Ultimately, we concluded that’s the best we could do under the circumstances.” Silver’s deft work with the players union on emphasizing social justice and racial equality messages throughout league play also earned him accolades across the sports world. If that wasn’t enough, Silver has the league in position to start its 2020–21 season in December — the shortest period between seasons in NBA history. With the league set to play during its traditional winter/spring time period with a shortened, 72-game schedule, Silver has the league poised to continue its successful play as one of the pre-eminent pro sports leagues. “We feel comfortable that the protocols that we’ll have in place in our practice facilities and our arenas will keep our players safe,” Silver said to ESPN. “We’re set out on a course to open on Dec. 22, but we will undoubtedly be learning new things every day.” — R. Thomas Umstead
THE WATCH LIST 2020
Aryeh Bourkoff Anyone who has been in the cable business over the past 20 years is well aware of Bourkoff. Before founding LionTree in 2012, Bourkoff was one of the top cable analysts in the country, and the only one in the sector covering both the equity and debt sides of the business. Along with other previous positions within UBS, Bourkoff served as vice chairman and head of Americas Investment Banking at UBS and served on the UBS Investment Banking Executive Committee. Before joining UBS, he was a high-yield research analyst at CIBC World Markets from 1997–99 and Smith Barney from 1995–97, where Institutional Investor ranked him the number one ranked cable and satellite analyst for seven consecutive years. LionTree has offices in New York, San Francisco, Paris and London, and Bourkoff and his team have been strongly influential in the deal market. According to a 2017 New York Times profile, Bourkoff first pitched the idea of using his investment in Charter Communications to roll up the cable business to Liberty Media chairman John Malone on Malone’s private jet. The result was Charter’s $80 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable. Since its founding, LionTree has had a hand in more than $500 billion in transactions, including Liberty’s purchase of Virgin Media in 2013 and the sale of its German and Eastern European assets to Vodafone in 2019 for $20 billion. More recently, LionTree advised Viacom in its $20 billion merger with CBS, Virgin Media founder Richard Branson’s satellite venture Virgin Orbit and
he next decade will be the T stage for a clash of titans ... ” TiVo in its $3 billion merger with Xperi. In his 2019 end-of-year letter to employees, Bourkoff said the focus for 2020 would be on whether scale players can move from the disruption of 2019, take an offensive posture and continue to innovate. “The answer, of course, is that they must,” Bourkoff wrote. “The next decade will be the stage for a clash of titans, as battle-tested platforms that have emerged stronger than ever will compete against one another for consumers’ attention. As advisers first and foremost, we must be cognizant of the fact that each scaled player’s ‘motion’ will be different.” — Mike Farrell
Faced with a period of rapid tech innovation that is disrupting much of the traditional TV business, research into new technologies at the CableLabs, led by CEO Phil McKinney, will be worth watching over the next few years. The impact of this research is apparent in the research consortium’s work on 10-gigabit networks, mobile convergence, artificial intelligence and new 3D holographic entertainment experiences. When McKinney took the top job at CableLabs in 2012, he brought with him a long career in software and tech startups, providng the expertise that he’s used to help operators speed up the pace of innovation. “Around 82% of the U.S. now has access to 1 gigabit [of internet speeds, up from] less than 3% three years ago,” McKinney said, with more to come. “Today’s networks are not going to be the networks of 10 or 20 years from now. We are going from 1 gig to 2 gigs, to 10 and 25 gigs. It is never-ending. There is nothing to indicate that you get to some speed and you’re done.” To help with that, CableLabs launched a 10G initiative that has already produced some successful trials with blazing 10-gigabit network speeds. “10G will not
only enable the continuing growth of our networks but also improve economic growth,” McKinney said. Other top priorities include: research into mobile and mobile network convergence that will create new services and allow content and data to seamlessly flow between mobile and traditional cable networks; work on artificial intelligence to create more reliable, networks; cybersecurity; and new ways of creating and experiencing content like the upcoming holographic Light Field technologies, McKinney said. Rapid change will also require more investment in training for tech teams. That imperative led to the recently announced merger with Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers / International Society of Broadband Experts (SCTE•ISBE), which will become a subsidiary of CableLabs. “There are hundreds of thousands of employees who have to be trained to deploy these new technologies,” McKinney said. “Bringing the two organizations together will create reduced overhead costs so we can invest more in training programs.” — George Winslow
ARYEH BOURKOFF: ©MICHAEL PRIEST PHOTOGRAPHY
Founder, Chairman and CEO, LionTree
THE WATCH LIST 2020
President, Magnolia Network
Discovery will take a bold step in 2021 within the traditional linear cable universe with the launch of a channel that will feature two of the most popular stars in the home renovation genre. Page is up for the challenge with Magnolia Network, a joint venture between Discovery and “Fixer Upper” stars Chip and Joanna Gaines. The veteran Scripps Networks executive will look to establish the new network’s footprint in a crowded linear cable marketplace. “Magnolia Network is a network that people very much want, need and look forward to because it represents positivity, family and comfort,” Page said. Prior to Discovery’s acquisition of Scripps Network in 2018, Page was general manager of U.S. Programming and Development for the company’s HGTV, Food Network, Travel Channel, DIY Network, Cooking Channel and Great American Country brands. It was at HGTV where Page displayed her programming acumen, launching such network franchise shows as “Flip or Flop,” “Brother vs. Brother” and “Fixer Upper,” which will be part of the new Magnolia lineup. Page’s influence on the network continues to fuel its success today: HGTV
is one of the highest-rated cable networks in a year dominated by shifting programming lineups due to production schedules disrupted by to COVID-19. “[HGTV] is real comfort food for viewers,” Page said. “I think brands with a clear, consistent, compelling brand promise provide a lot of comfort for viewers because you know what you’re coming for and your expectations are met.” While the network has yet to set a firm launch date, the Magnolia Network has already generated awareness through content previews on sister networks Food Network and DIY. Magnolia programming will be prominently featured in the Discovery Plus direct-to-consumer service launching in January. Discovery Plus will offer episodes from 10 Magnolia Network original series, as well as preview specials such as “Magnolia Table with Joanna Gaines” and “The Courage to Run with Chip Gaines and Gabe Grunewald.” “Our role in it will be something that will be a great offering to people who want that Discovery larger product, but also serves as a great marketing tool for us,” Page said of the streaming product. “Hopefully it serves two great purposes of giving people a real sense of what we’re going to be, as well as showing some highly anticipated content.” — R. Thomas Umstead
agnolia Network is a M network that people very much want, need and look forward to ... ”
Casey Bloys ALLISON PAGE: AMANDA EDWARDS/GETTY IMAGES FOR DISCOVERY; CASEY BLOYS GROUP: JEFF KRAVITZ/FILMMAGIC FOR HBO
President, HBO Programming, WarnerMedia
HBO’s drama series “Watchmen” was the most celebrated scripted series at the 72nd Emmy Awards this past September, winning 11 awards and pacing the cable network to an industry-high 30 statuettes — a feat achieved despite having nearly 60 less nominations than rival Netflix. Yet exceeding expectations is nothing new for Bloys. Since taking over the position at the leading premium service in 2016, he’s always answered the call from viewers and critics as to whether the service can continually remain the industry’s leader in creative, innovative and entertaining scripted content. The question most recently was posed after Emmy record-holder “Game of Thrones” ended its eight-season run in 2019. Bloys’s post-“Thrones” answer was not only the development of “Watchmen,” but also the successful and Emmy Awardwinning series such as “Succession,” “Big Little Lies” and “Euphoria.” “As long as we continue to find talented artists with something to say, we hope we will do well with the Emmys,” Bloys said. “Total nominations and wins may fluctuate year to year, but we are not changing our strategy of betting on the storytellers.”
Now with HBO Max under his creative belt, Bloys has a wide canvas to develop original content for an ever-growing digital audience. “We try to keep in mind that the goal for HBO Max is to broaden the audience for HBO,” Bloys said. “While HBO will continue to produce the kinds of shows you would expect, the shows for HBO Max will continue to push into new genres, like reality, DC [superhero franchises], tentpole dramas and young adult content.” Indeed, the future success of the subscription-based HBO Max service relies on the fortunes of its anchor HBO. Given the successful runs of such acclaimed series as “Lovecraft Country” and “I May Destroy You” this year, as well as the 2021 returns of “Succession” and multiple Emmy Award-nominated comedy series “Insecure” — along with new limited series “Mare of Easttown” with Kate Winslet and “The White Lotus” from Mike White — Bloys is poised to keep HBO in its creative leadership position and to make even more noise during the 2021 Emmy season. — R. Thomas Umstead
THE WATCH LIST 2020
16 Kevin Keefe
Senior VP and Segment Leader, Broadband Networks, CommScope
11 Chris Wallace
Anchor, ‘Fox News Sunday’
Wallace is the anchor of the Sunday morning public-affairs program, and moderated the stormy first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden on Sept. 29. The debate was the highest-rated in cable news history with nearly 18 million viewers and was his second time moderating for the Commission on Presidential Debates. In July, Wallace’s wide-ranging interview with Trump was met with praise from both sides of the aisle.
12 Craig Moffett
Partner and Senior Research Analyst, Moffett Nathanson
The authoritative voice on U.S. cable and satellite broadcasting, Moffett has been elected to Institutional Investor magazine’s All-American Research Team in the U.S. Telecom and/or Cable & Satellite sectors on 18 occasions. Prior to founding MoffettNathanson, he spent more than 10 years at Sanford Bernstein & Co. as a senior research analyst. He was previously at Sotheby’s Holdings and The Boston Consulting Group.
13 James Pitaro
Chairman, ESPN and Sports Content
Pitaro was named to oversee ESPN and Sports Content on Oct. 12, as part of The Walt Disney Co.’s strategic reorganization of its media and entertainment businesses, focusing on ESPN’s live sports programming, as well as sports news and original and non-scripted sports-related content for Disney’s cable channels, ESPN+ and ABC. He was named ESPN president and co-chair, Disney Media Networks, in 2018, after eight years as a top Disney executive.
14 Charlie Ergen
Co-Founder & Chairman of the Board, Dish and EchoStar
Ergen co-founded Dish, formerly EchoStar Communications, in 1980 and currently acts as chairman for both Dish and EchoStar. He oversees Dish’s business development and strategy as well as its emerging wireless division, the focus of much speculation. Recently, Ergen has focused on reaching new markets and expanding product and service offerings including Sling TV and acquisition of wireless spectrum.
15 Jon E. Kirchner
Chief Executive Officer, Xperi
Kirchner’s Xperi, parent company of TiVo, recently resolved TiVo’s four-year 40 Broadcastingcable.com
Keefe oversees development and delivery of CommScope’s end-to-end product portfolio of CCAP, PON, video systems, access technologies and fiber, coaxial and copper connectivity solutions serving the telco and cable provider broadband market. He joined CommScope through its acquisition of Arris, and he joined Arris after the acquisition of Motorola Mobility’s Home business. CommScope pioneered many of the technologies and specifications that define today’s networking landscape.
17 Gil Katz
Senior Vice President, Cable Access Business Operations, Harmonic
Katz oversees sales and sales strategy of cable access solutions at Harmonic, the worldwide leader in virtualized cable access and video delivery solutions. He accelerates deployments of the company’s CableOS solution and ensures technical support for new deployments. He is also responsible for managing and developing the global CableOS lab integration and field trial team. Earlier, he led the development and implementation of next-generation architectures for Harmonic’s cable edge and access markets.
18 Michelle Sneed
President of Production and Development, Tyler Perry Studios
Sneed oversees all film, television and digital media projects for the prolific Tyler Perry Studios and serves as executive producer on several TV series, including “The Oval,” “Sistas” and “Ruthless.” Earlier she was a director of physical production for BET Networks. She has been affiliated with Tyler Perry Studios for more than 10 years. As a member of the studio’s original team (at Greenbriar), she produced more than 400 episodes of television content.
19 Chris McCarthy
Pres., MTV Entertainment, ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks
McCarthy, who has steadily risen in responsibility at ViacomCBS, is in the position of overseeing franchises MTV, Comedy Central, Paramount Network, Smithsonian Channel, Pop TV, CMT, VH1, TV Land and Logo Media and their respective content studios. He assumed his current title in November 2019 shortly after the ViacomCBS merger. Known for a successful track record in transforming businesses and creating content that shapes pop culture, McCarthy had been president of MTV since October 2017.
20 Suzanne Scott
CEO, Fox News Media
Scott’s purview encompasses Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network (FBN), Fox News Digital, Fox News Audio, Fox News Books and the direct-to-consumer subscription streaming services Fox Nation and Fox News International. She
became the company’s first female CEO in May 2018. Since then she has added four new platforms to the brand (two of which launched just this year), which expects to continue growing under a Biden-Harris administration: FNC’s highest percent share of the ratings came during the Obama-Biden years.
21 Jake Tapper
Anchor and Host, “State of the Union”, CNN
Tapper guided viewers through the presidential election, just as he’s done throughout the many bizarre events in recent times. His commentary at the end of “State of the Union” has been vital in helping political insiders and viewers make sense of these times. On Nov. 15, he blasted the GOP for not admitting Biden won. “How long is the Republican Party going to continue to defer to unhinged mendacious desperation, led by the gang that couldn’t sue straight?” Tapper said.
22 Wonya Lucas
President and CEO, Crown Media Family Networks
Lucas took the helm at Crown Media Family Networks in August, overseeing linear networks Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and Hallmark Drama; subscription video-on-demand service Hallmark Movies Now; and publishing division Hallmark Publishing. The former Discovery and The Weather Channel executive had been president and CEO of Public Broadcasting Atlanta, and before that was president and CEO of TV One, where she became the second African-American woman to hold those titles at a cable network.
23 Jessica Rosenworcel
Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
Rosenworcel, whether it is as senior Democratic commissioner, acting FCC chair or chair, will be a big player in regulatory policy in an upcoming Biden Administration. She is likely to lead an effort to reimpose net neutrality rules unless Congress beats her to it, and could expand broadband subsidies to more pandemic-sequestered students. She first joined the FCC in May 2012, exited due to political infighting unrelated to her service, then, was reinstalled in 2017.
24 Stephen Espinoza
Pres., Sports & Event Programming, Showtime Networks Inc.
Espinoza was promoted to his current role in January 2018. Under his leadership, Showtime has become the leading outlet for live boxing. He helped orchestrate one of the biggest deals in boxing history when Showtime secured the exclusive TV rights to Floyd Mayweather in 2013. He’s responsible for developing and executing overall strategy, including acquiring all sports and event programming for Showtime and Showtime PPV. The original lineup includes “All Access” and “Inside The NFL” and sports documentaries.
25 Lena Waithe Actor, Producer
Emmy Award-winning writer, creator, producer and actor Lena Waithe has proven herself a talent to be reckoned with. In 2019, she signed a new overall deal with Amazon Studios and will work to create and produce original series, which will premiere exclusively on Amazon Prime Video. She had previously been under a first-look deal at Showtime to produce projects through her company, Hillman Grad Productions.
JAMES PITARO: JOE FARAONI / ESPN IMAGES ; JAKE TAPPER: GETTY IMAGES/JIM SPELLMAN
battle with Comcast over alleged patent infringement, signing a retroactive licensing pact. The settlement removes an expense and opens opportunities in other pay-TV markets, including Canada. Previously Kirchner was president of Xperi following the completion of the acquisition of DTS in December 2016. Before that, he worked for the consulting and audit groups at what is now PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.
THE WATCH LIST 2020
Chief Operating Officer and Chief Product Officer, Netflix
Peters has a lower profile than, say, co-CEO Ted Sarandos, or even just-elevated Head of Global TV Bela Bajaria. But he’s the guy, after a dozen years, who’s figuring out how to tweak the user interface or bump up the price, or give away the service for a weekend in one big corner of the planet. Peters is one of a handful of people on every quarterly earnings call. And this year, he added chief operating officer to his previous title of chief product officer . So, he’s crucial if not always noticed outside the world’s biggest streaming-video company. That makes him a lock for a list of people to watch in streaming video. Peters had career stops at several companies a long way from Hollywood, including Wine.com, Red Hat and NOCpulse, before becoming a senior executive at video-technology firms Mediabolic and Rovi (before it merged with TiVo). Peters joined Netflix in 2008, initially as chief streaming and partnerships officer for nearly nine years, before becoming chief product officer in 2017. Now he’s in an even more central
position with the streaming giant, even as it continues to evolve its succession strategy, and its customer-acquisition strategy across the globe. Peters will continue to experiment with the Netflix value proposition across the world. Even as the company ended its free promo offering in the United States, Peters talked at Netflix’s latest earnings call about going free for everyone in India (a country with 1.3 billion people and perhaps Netflix’s single biggest growth opportunity). “We think that giving everyone in a country access to Netflix for free for a weekend is a great way to expose a bunch of new people to the amazing stories that we have … and how the service works, really create an event, and hopefully get a bunch of those folks to sign up,” Peters said. Expect to see Peters continue to pull the strings on price hikes, free weekends, interface tweaks and so much more that makes Netflix the most dominant streaming-video service on the planet. — David Bloom
We think that giving everyone in a country access to Netflix for free for a weekend is a great way to expose ... people to the amazing stories we have ...”
Chief Product Officer, YouTube
In 2013, Mohan was called Google’s $100 million man after the company paid the online ad wizard a prodigious retention bonus to keep him from bolting to Twitter. These days, Mohan might be worth even more to Google for one of its biggest divisions, YouTube. Mohan oversees the user experience on not just the iconic ad-supported video service, but also YouTube Music, Kids and VR, and subscription services YouTube Premium and YouTube TV. Mohan’s remit includes trust and safety, a Sisyphean task in this fraught year of pandemic misinformation, election disinformation, deep fakes and other headaches. YouTube in 2020 may be more central than ever to its 2 billion users who consume everything from 15-second shorts to feature-length movies to hours-long live streams. “We’ve always thought of YouTube as an open platform where people come to connect with each other, learn how to do virtually anything, be entertained and informed,” Mohan said in an email interview. “This came to life during COVID-19, when we saw
an acceleration of many trends that were already in progress.” Those trends include online education, which Mohan said accelerated substantially during the pandemic. “Now people have really seen how this can work at scale, and I expect we’ll see a lot of evolution of education as a result,” Mohan said. He also expects more live streaming and large-screen viewing, already up 80% year over year for YouTube and YouTube TV. “While the majority of YouTube consumption happens on mobile, our fastest growing area is actually the TV screen,” Mohan said. “In the U.S. alone, over 100 million people watch YouTube and [YouTube TV] on their TV screens each month. The Living Room presents a great opportunity for YouTube.” Mohan is a self-described “huge sports fan,” rooting for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and looking forward to next year’s Tokyo Olympics. That may be one reason for the many live sports on YouTube TV. “I am always looking for the latest sports content on YouTube TV and trying out our new features — Key Plays is a game changer,” Mohan said. “It tracks important plays and lets you easily rewatch them.” — David Bloom
THE WATCH LIST 2020
Vice President, Global Ad Revenue and Marketing Solutions, Roku
Six years ago, Levin was Roku’s first ad sales person, charged with explaining why brands should send ad dollars to this newfangled device. Levin’s group now has more than 200 employees, and a broader client base, including Future 500 clients, “channel partners” such as Peacock and Disney Plus, and local companies connecting to nearby consumers. She has a much easier time explaining why linear TV advertisers should jump to Roku. “We spent the last six years growing that business from the ground up, helping brands understand how much they should move out of linear into OTT as the right targeting tactic,” Levin said. “How do they right-size media spend to consumption and make the best path to those consumers, depending on what they’re trying to accomplish? It’s been an exciting journey, and we’ve only really just gotten started.” That spade work has paid off in the pandemic, as locked-down consumers have increasingly turned to streaming, especially free, ad-supported services, including the Roku Channel and its many competitor/partners. The company doesn’t break out ad revenue, but
Q3 earnings saw a 70% jump year over year in “platform” revenue, which includes advertising. That positions Roku to “help shape the future of television — including TV advertising — around the world,” the company’s shareholder letter said. Expect Levin, who formerly worked at YuMe, IAC and BusinessWeek, to be at the center of that. “What we witnessed as the largest streaming platform in the U.S. is that the No. 1 thing people search for on Roku is ‘free,’” Levin said. They’re looking for free content to supplement their viewing behaviors on Netflix or other places. And that only accelerated during COVID.” “Free” means ads. Going forward, Levin expects two trends to shape 2021: identity and frequency. Knowing your viewer’s identity means you can build a direct connection to the consumer with better data and better advertising. And then you have to figure out how often does a given ad run. “What’s the right balance, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish?” Levin asked. “What’s the right consumer journey? That’s a big focus for us in the next year.” — David Bloom
Bozoma Saint John
Global Chief Marketing Officer, Netflix
When Netflix named Saint John CMO in June, it wasn’t exactly a surprise. She’d spent the previous two decades working in executive roles at some of the world’s most formidable brands and tech companies, including Apple Music, Beats Music, PepsiCo and Uber. Saint John was the first African-American woman to join Netflix’s group of C-Suite executives and the streaming giant’s third marketing chief in less than 18 months. At Apple, she spearheaded campaigns geared toward growing consumer brand recognition and loyalty around the world. She made a name for herself at Apple’s 2016 Worldwide Developer’s Conference, when she managed to get a room full of tech developers to rap— slightly—along to The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.” In June 2017, Uber hired Saint John to repair the company’s reputation and morale. One year later she left to serve as CMO at entertainment and sports agency Endeavor. And she reportedly left that job after receiving a $7 million-a-year offer from Netflix.
Over 15 million people subscribed to Netflix in the first three months of 2020, marking record growth for the top subscription video-on-demand service. In all, Saint John will be responsible for marketing to the 182.8 million Netflix subscribers. She joins the streaming behemoth at a time when the company is up against a slew of new competitors, including Disney Plus, HBO Max and Apple TV. But Saint John, who says she learned at an early stage in her career to “trust her gut,” seems to have plenty of ideas up her sleeve about how best to promote shows on the streaming service. The exec told a packed crowd at the 2019 online marketing festival in Germany that performance marketing is key to success. “All of our businesses and corporations require a level of intimacy with our consumer that can only be reached through performance marketing,” she said. “[We need to understand] what are the expectations of our audience? What do they want us to know about them and therefore we can service them better.” — Addie Morfoot
THE WATCH LIST 2020
Vice President and General Manager, Google TV & Android TV, Google
Even close observers could be forgiven some brand confusion discerning the differences between Alphabet Inc.’s Google TV and the older, closely related Android TV. But make no mistake; the combination on a global scale represents Google’s most coherent effort yet to connect the streaming-video industry’s hardware, software and content sides in a way that consumers find compelling and useful. Making that initiative work on a global scale is Govil-Pai’s job. The best way to understand Govil-Pai’s streaming empire: Android TV is an operating system for streaming devices. Google TV is a viewer-friendly interface that sits “atop” Android TV. Google TV ties together technologies including search, machine learning, mobile, smart home and smart assistants, while making it easier for viewers to unearth interesting programs across SVOD, AVOD, live TV and other sources. “Many of us are realizing that while there is a lot of great content, it’s really hard to find something to watch,” Govil-Pai said in an email interview. “That
is where Google [TV] comes in, providing an interface which helps you find content in a seamless search and discovery experience.” Google TV launched this summer alongside a $50 dongle and remote control called Chromecast with Google TV. Coming soon: Google TV in Android TV-powered connected TVs, third-party streaming devices and more. It’s a potentially potent combination. With Android TV gaining momentum with both pay-TV operators and consumers, Alphabet hopes Google TV will take it over the top in the global connected-TV arms race with Amazon and Roku. That’s the challenge facing Govil-Pai, a Bollywoodborn former child actress who made a savvy career pivot, picking up two computer science degrees from the Indian Institutes of Technology before becoming technical director on early Pixar animated films such as “Toy Story.” Even as pandemic viewership has shot up across the streaming industry, Govil-Pai’s unit has “continued to stay focused on providing an experience that meets users’ needs … helping them find something to watch” with a “platform with features such as watchlist and screensaver mode that help entertain and delight our users at a time when it’s needed more than ever.” — David Bloom
Vice President and General Manager, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon
In January, Amazon Fire TV surpassed 40 million active users, as the platform continues to battle Roku for the lofty title of “World’s Top Connected TV OS.” The clout of these two device ecosystems was on full display over the summer, when two major streaming services, Comcast/NBCUniversal’s Peacock and AT&T/WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, both tried launching without support from either Amazon or Roku. (Fire TV has since enabled an app for HBO Max.) Sitting at the controls as an emerging distribution paradigm unfolds, with OTT device ecosystems serving as the new gatekeepers, Gupta considers Fire TV fierce competition with not just Roku, but also Google and Apple, “a good thing because it provides customers with more options and more selections. We are Amazon and we believe in open customer choices. But we at Fire TV feel like we are delivering the best product.” The former Apple and Yahoo executive joined Amazon in 2011, and was put in charge of the company’s quickly aborted FirePhone initiative. That early misstep aside, he has helped lead the company’s successful Fire
TV-fueled OTT ambitions since early 2015. As they have for Netflix, Roku and other big streaming companies, the pandemic’s changing consumer habits have helped fuel rapid growth for Amazon’s Prime Video content and Fire TV software/hardware initiatives. “What we’ve seen during the lockdown is people looking to TV as really a way to connect with the world,” Gupta said. “They want to understand what’s going on and get entertainment. It’s redefined what people are looking for in our devices. The amazing growth in live usage [on Fire TV] is a great example of that.” Making Fire TV a better conduit for live streaming is where much of Gupta’s focus is these days. There’s also international expansion of the platform to consider. “We want to (expand) in a way that we don’t ever sacrifice or compromise the customer experience,” explains Gupta. “Meaning that when someone gets a Fire TV, they know they are getting a great experience that they are going to love. We will never ever go into a region if we can’t provide that.” — Addie Morfoot
THE WATCH LIST 2020
Executive Vice President and General Manager, HBO Max
Forssell is in charge of the new HBO Max business group, overseeing international expansion. Already, there have been plenty of challenges. The $14.99-a-month service launched in May with a confusing brand proposition, and lacking distribution deals with Amazon Fire TV or Roku. More than 30 planned original shows had to be scuttled or delayed as a result of the pandemic. In October, however, WarnerMedia reported that HBO and HBO Max were reaching 38 million combined subscribers — up from 33 million at the end of March — including 8.6 million on HBO Max. “From programming to product to technology to marketing and everything in between, the team did not miss a beat when we went into lockdown in March,” Forssell said. “While we had to adjust some of our plans, especially marketing, which planned extensive campaigns around live sporting events, the launch was pretty seamless.” With an Amazon deal now in place, a Roku pact reportedly on the way and an end to the pandemic at least in sight, HBO Max has
aggressive growth benchmarks to meet. AT&T CEO John Stankey, who has pledged to invest $4 billion into HBO Max over the next three years, has also told investors that he wants the service to have more than 50 million U.S. subscribers by 2025. Forssell’s international agenda is also ambitious. The SVOD’s first international launch will be in Latin America in the first half of 2021. HBO Max will also “start upgrading HBO branded streaming services in Europe to HBO Max,” Forssell said. Forssell is also focused on content. Hit TV franchises like “Friends” and “South Park” are available to HBO Max subscribers, as are series and movies from within the broader WarnerMedia portfolio and superhero sequel “Wonder Woman 1984” is set to debut on Dec. 25. “We’ll need to add capabilities to accept new payment methods for each region and, of course, provide full local language support,” he added. “To be successful, streaming services must be global in operation but local in appeal, so that means adding regional programming as well as very tailored marketing efforts that authentically reach audiences in each country.” — Addie Morfoot
Apple Business Leader for Video, News, Books, iCloud, Advertising, Fitness Plus and Apple One, Apple
provide subscribers “only the channels you want, on-demand, ad-free, for the entire family, and all of it inside the new Apple TV app.” Also in 2019, Stern helped launch Apple News Plus, which gives paying subscribers access to more than 300 magazines, select newspapers and premium digital news services. — Addie Morfoot
PETER STERN: APPLE
In 2016, Apple hired the former Time Warner Cable executive to handle cloud-based subscription services. At the time, the Wall Street Journal speculated that in addition to increasing Apple’s investment in Apple Music, Apple Books and iCloud, Stern’s duties would include helping the tech giant tap into the television streaming service industry, which had been on the table for years. Stern’s executive vice president-level tenure at a large cable company, where he led product and strategy, made him a perfect candidate to, according to Digiday, bridge a contentious divide that had erupted between various entertainment companies and Apple due to the Cupertino giant’s alleged hardnosed negotiation tactics. Cut to November 2019, when Apple launched Apple TV Plus. The subscription platform, which was originally intended for original content only, has become a formidable player in the streaming wars. Apple TV Plus currently offers 16 original TV series and movies, including Emmy Award-winner “The Morning Show,” “Ted Lasso” and “Greyhound.” (Last spring Apple announced that it would acquire older movies and shows for TV Plus to build a larger catalog of content in an attempt to compete with the massive libraries available on competitive platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Disney Plus.) While Apple hasn’t released TV Plus subscriber numbers in its first year, the company’s broader services unit — which houses not only the SVOD platform and the app it runs on, but also things like iCloud and Apple Music — generated $13.2 billion in revenue in the third quarter, up 16%. Stern was also behind the 2019 launch of Apple TV Channels, which offers both premium networks like Showtime and Starz, as well as streaming services such as CBS All Access, in a single app and billing system, similar to Amazon Prime Video Channels. Stern said last year that Apple TV Channels is a way to
THE WATCH LIST 2020
Executive VP, Business Operations and Strategy, NBCUniversal’s Advertising Sales Division
In January, just ahead of the introduction of new streaming service Peacock, NBCUniversal introduced its One Platform advertising initiative. Created to streamline ad buys across all Comcast, NBCUniversal and Sky platforms by uniting linear, digital and streaming ad inventory, the initiative provides marketers with tools to target key consumers. Bhatia, a veteran advanced ad man, was put in charge of ushering in this transformation. “Industries that adapt to change fastest end up being in a leadership position,” he said. “So our call to action is for the agencies and advertisers to join us in that transformation and shed legacy from a measurement, planning and buying perspective [and] to follow where the audiences are going. That is ultimately what One Platform is intended to do.” While plenty of time is spent “making the future feel less threatening” to marketers, Bhatia noted, so far they don’t seem too intimidated. “There’s definitely a trend towards using data and technology to target and optimize media buys,” he explained. To do just that, NBCU created AdSmart, a technology that
unites client data with NBCU’s audience data to make sure marketers reach both linear and digital audiences. “Two thirds of our Adsmart business is actually doing custom matches with advertisers’ CRM databases,” Bhatia said. “They are looking to find those at scale across our TV, digital and OTT properties. So we work with them to create these custom matches and create a segment that then dimensionilizes those audiences across all of our properties and run an optimized media campaign against it.” The national launch of Peacock in July meant another NBCU platform for advertisers to infiltrate. Unlike Netflix, Peacock is an ad-supported streaming service with subscription tiers. The service launched with 10 advertisers, including Target, Subaru Unilever and Verizon, as well as a promise to run no more than five minutes of advertisements per hour. Bhatia said that it is critical for brands to be where consumers are. “Follow the audience,” he said. “If audiences are consuming content on streaming platforms at a growing clip, then our offer to advertisers is to enable them to follow those audiences into those environments.” — Addie Morfoot
here’s definitely a trend towards using data and T technology to target and optimize media buys.”
Dwayne Benefield Vice President, Entertainment, T-Mobile
Benefield honchoes T-Mobile’s latest effort to disrupt an industry: a low-cost, no-contract OTT skinny bundle that notably expands the wireless carrier’s
services. TVision is a suite of offerings priced between $10 and $60 a month, targeting different TV-watching audiences, with optional Android TV-based hardware, a free year of Apple TV Plus, and even a $99 deal on the Apple TV 4K. Benefield calls the various tiers “right-sized lineups featuring the content they love most,” backed by support from “real humans” in thousands of T-Mobile retail outlets, online and on the phone. TVision launched Nov. 1 for prepaid T-Mobile customers, with more tranches to come, and the promise that prices would stay low, tech support human and contracts nonexistent. A licensed pilot since he was 16, Benefield must navigate those sometimes conflicting promises and make TVision a sustainable part of the T-Mobile portfolio. That’s proved difficult for competitors, including Benefield’s former employer, Sony, where he presided for five years over its skinny bundle, PlayStation Vue, which shuttered in January. Benefield joined T-Mobile just as it wrapped up a transformative merger with Sprint, adjusted to new CEO Mike Sievert, and accelerated buildout of its hugely important 5G network. According to Benefield, “5G has the potential
to change the mobile-viewing experience by allowing even faster load times, faster download speeds, seamless playback, and reduced playback delays. As 5G evolves, it will deliver lower latency for a better interactive experience and more efficiency through multicasting.” A Wharton grad, Benefield worked at Disney and Google before Sony. Now, he’s charged with helping T-Mobile navigate a fast-changing sector far from its carrier, or even “un-carrier” roots. “As people return to work, we expect the time spent watching TV to continue to exceed pre-pandemic levels, and the manner in which they watch, including more mobile and interactive viewing, to forever change,” he added. Just ahead, TVision’s part in delivering another Sievert promise, 5G-based wireless home internet, to rival the cable powerhouses and deliver to areas they can’t reach. T-Mobile plans to have in-home internet in more than half of U.S. households by 2026. — David Bloom
THE WATCH LIST 2020 15 Lauren Anderson Co-Head of Content and Programming, IMDb TV
In February, Amazon moved the content team for its fast-growing AVOD platform, IMDb TV, under the Amazon Studios management umbrella, putting Anderson in charge, along with Ryan Pirozzi. Anderson and Pirozzi oversee production, licensing, research and strategy for the free-to-consumer platform. Among free, ad-supported streaming platforms, IMDb TV stands out, not only with high-profile acquisitions like AMC’s “Mad Men,” but original shows including “Alex Rider.”
16 Michael Hawkey General Manager, TiVo
11 Michael Ahiakpor
Chief Product Officer, Tubi
Ahiakpor joined AVOD platform Tubi in 2012, as one of six original staff members in a business then known as adRise. During his tenure, he has led the startup’s product management, data science, design, user research, content experience, customer support and QA efforts. The company now has more than 33 million monthly active users across more than 25 device platforms. In March, Tubi was acquired by Fox for nearly $500 million.
12 Michele Barney
Senior Vice President of Content and Programming, AT&T
The former mergers and acquisitions attorney is responsible for AT&T’s programming relationships and deal negotiations with a variety of content providers, ranging from premium networks to SVOD providers to cable networks, securing content distribution rights across AT&T’s traditional, OTT and mobile video platforms. She also oversees the content deals and scheduling for advanced formats, including 4K, HDR, Dolby Atmos, AR, VR and IoT for AT&T’s curated 4K channels.
13 Devin Emery
Chief Product Officer and Executive Vice President of Content Strategy, CuriosityStream
With 13 million subscribers in 175 countries, CuriosityStream touts itself as the biggest publicly traded pure-play streaming video company behind Netflix. The SVOD service has carved out a niche in science and nature shows and factual programming. Emery oversees innovation, development and design across all CuriosityStream platforms as well as strategic content creation for the brand. He was recognized as one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 in media in 2019.
14 Craig Erwich
Senior Vice President of Content, Hulu
Since joining Hulu in April 2014, Erwich has overseen the straight-to-series orders for Hulu’s premium slate of originals, including award-winning series “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Ramy.” He has also spearheaded efforts to acquire libraries from other networks including AMC and Turner Broadcasting, while expanding Hulu’s film offerings through deals with partners including Epix and Magnolia Pictures. Hulu had 36.6 million subscribers as of Q3, Disney said. 46 Broadcastingcable.com
Since 2015, the former Slingbox engineer has led growth initiatives for TiVo. This includes helping to oversee overall strategy and product offerings in multiple areas for the company’s User Experience group. That unit is key to TiVo’s master plan — that is, to differentiate itself by developing the kind of personalization and search-anddiscovery features that truly cut down the complexity of finding something to streaming on television.
17 Mike Hopkins HOPKINS
Senior Vice President, Prime Video and Amazon Studios
After roles at Sony Pictures Television and Hulu, Hopkins joined Amazon in February 2020, overseeing all aspects of the tech giant’s video entertainment businesses and reporting to CEO and chairman Jeff Bezos. Amazon doesn’t break out the number of active Prime Video users from its regular Prime subscribers, but as of January 2020, there were over 150 million Amazon Prime subscribers, a number that is expected to surpass 200 million this year.
18 Robert Gelick
Executive VP & General Manager, Streaming Services and Chief Product Officer, ViacomCBS Digital
ViacomCBS is currently planning to rebrand its CBS All Access service under the Paramount Plus brand, which will roll out next year. Gelick leads ViacomCBS’ direct-to-consumer entertainment experiences and network-based sites, apps and SVOD services, including the CBS All Access subscription service, as well as the multiplatform experiences for Viacom-branded networks and the Smithsonian Channel. Gelick’s team also produces original online content to support CBS Television Network’s shows.
19 Amy Kuessner
Senior VP of Content Strategy and Global Partnerships, Pluto TV
Kuessner manages hundreds of deals with major Hollywood studios, TV networks, distributors, sports leagues, news and publishing outfits for ViacomCBS’ free streaming service, Pluto TV. The AVOD platform recently passed 28.4 million monthly active users in the U.S. and 7.5 million worldwide. The company expects to reach 30 million domestic users by the end of the year and is planning to expand to Brazil, followed by France and Italy in 2021.
20 Chris Larson
Senior VP of TCL North America
TCL introduced its low-priced smart TVs, powered by the Roku OS, into the North American market just two years ago. Today, TCL is the No. 2 brand, controlling 14% of the market, trailing only Samsung. The fast proliferation of these
TVs is the biggest reason Roku is the top U.S. device platform. And Larson, a long-time top Toshiba sales exec, has led the team responsible for this growth.
21 Jon Lin
Vice President of Product, Sling TV
Lin joined Sling TV earlier this year where he directs the Dish Networkowned live-streaming service’s product management and design functions. Lin oversaw the launch of Sling Watch Party, which lets subscribers invite up to three friends for co-viewing. He was also involved in the integration of OTA channels directly into the Sling TV user interface on LG Smart TVs. The virtual MVPD service recently reported that it has 2.5 million users.
22 Val Boreland
Executive Vice President, Content Acquisition, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming
Boreland oversees acquisitions across all NBCUniversal entertainment networks and platforms including NBC, USA Network, Bravo, E!, SYFY, Oxygen, Universal Kids, and Peacock. With the latter surpassing 22 million sign-ups within a few months of its national launch, Boreland and team have secured programming for Peacock from across NBCUniversal and beyond, including a wide variety of third-party networks and studios including A&E, ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX, HISTORY, Nickelodeon, Showtime, ViacomCBS, Paramount, Lionsgate, Warner Bros and Blumhouse.
23 Michael Paull
President, Disney Plus and ESPN Plus
Paull is responsible for leading the Disney Plus and ESPN Plus streaming platforms including marketing, product and technology, data science, and business operations. Paull joined Disney in 2017 with the acquisition of Bamtech Media, where he served as CEO. Disney recently reported that its Disney Plus streaming service hit 73.7 million subscribers in its first year, exceeding expectations. The company is planning to launch a new general entertainment, streaming platform overseas in 2021 under the brand Star.
24 Katherine Pond
Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Vizio
Pond leads OTT distribution, content acquisition and strategic partnerships for Vizio. Since joining the consumer electronics company in 2012, she has initiated, negotiated and closed distribution, ad tech and licensing deals across content, technology, advertising and data verticals. She was named Concordia University’s 2020 Alumna of the Year for Professional Achievement and was chosen as one of Cynopsis’ 2020 Top Women in Media.
25 Soumya Sriraman
Head of Prime Video Channels, U.S.
Sriraman recently joined Prime Video after serving as founding CEO and president of BritBox. Under her oversight, that niche SVOD channel grew to 1.5 million subscribers in just over three years. Prime Video Channels lets users subscribe to third-party networks and streaming channels ranging from HBO, Starz and Showtime, to niche fare like Shudder and Broadway HD. The Prime Video Channels model now accounts for a significant share of subscribers for many streaming services.
THE WATCH LIST 2020
President, Advanced Television Systems Committee
The abiding saga of advanced television standards requires patience. Noland brought plenty of that, along with a consensus-building leadership style and an encyclopedic knowledge of NextGen TV when she became ATSC president in May 2019. Noland had chaired several ATSC 3.0-related and implementation teams since 2012 and in standards roles, at Backchannelmedia Inc., Telvue Corp. and LG Electronics. Noland began to earn her geek credentials as a kid. Her father, a university professor, gave her access to an acoustic coupler, which gave her access to the “campus mainframe” computers. “I was soon playing text-based adventure games and learning to write programs in Basic and Fortran on this amazing new toy,” she recalled. Eventually she applied her tech interest to the media business at Backchannelmedia, a pioneer in advanced advertising solutions for ATSC 1.0, which was just emerging. As Noland moved through the standards process, she found it “gratifying to work with the brightest minds in broadcast engineering from around the globe.” As the groups discussed technical solutions, Noland was impressed to watch the “amazing intersection of technology and teamwork.” She is also aware of on-going issues of the intertwined communications/media ecosystem. “ATSC 3.0 offers great potential to be a gamechanger for the media tech business,” Noland reflected. “But history suggests that vigilance, creative thinking and continually striving for progress will all be required to make good things happen.
“With next-gen technology, broadcasting is emerging from a largely local solution onto the global stage, joining other global data/media delivery systems such as the internet, Wi-Fi and LTE/5G. Cloud technology, the international outlook, IP-based workflows and new business scenarios [are] all coming together,” Noland observed, which means “the industry needs a huge range of skillsets.” As for ATSC’s agenda, Noland expects that camaraderie will continue to drive the group and fulfill her checklist: “How to help a group achieve its goals, how to build a great team, how to keep learning, how to make things happen, how to keep calm, how to stick up for your ideas, and how to listen.” “And how we all need a good laugh from time to time.” — Gary Arlen
Senior VP and Chief Technical Officer, NBC Sports Group and NBC Olympics
When Mazza thinks about the “Olympics at Home,” his thoughts go not to a living room but to the “virtual International Broadcast Center” (IBC) that his NBC team developed for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. As director of engineering, Mazza led the team that developed an infrastructure, which let part of NBC’s massive control center operate at New York headquarters, fully integrated with the on-site control center in Atlanta. Three dozen video feeds went up to New York, where replay servers, graphics creation terminals and other production tools were based. Live productions came from the control room in Atlanta, but taped or time-shifted material ran from 30 Rock in New York. This corporate decision to put a permanent sports operations center at headquarters was designed to minimize the expense and effort of building a full control facility at every Olympics venue. The current IBC in Stamford, Conn. opened in 2013, built by Mazza’s team to
supplement the re-usable infrastructure that NBC moves to new locations for Olympic coverage. “In ’96, we had to pioneer a lot of stuff that nobody thought would work,” Mazza recalled. “All the remote control and Ethernet-based controls did not exist. File-based workflows did not exist; the concept of remote-controlled anything was brand new.” Mazza is planning for the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics in 2021. He envisions six control rooms in Japan working with three trucks on site — all controlled from truck docks in Stamford. Mazza said he and his team have been working like this for 14 years, adding that it’s the only way they could have produced such a large amount of video content. NBC has been using some of the same virtual tactics for college football productions during the pandemic. He’s also enthusiastic about the value of tools such as media asset management, which has become vital throughout production. “You need persistence, passion and insatiable curiosity about how things work,” Mazza said. “Also, an unrelenting attention to detail and testing.” Given everything that can go wrong during a live sportscast, Mazza said metaphorically, “You have to design your systems for resilience on a bad day, not a perfectly clear sunny day.” — Gary Arlen
THE WATCH LIST 2020
Executive VP & Chief Technology Officer, Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution
As a young software engineer, LaBerge joined Starwave. The company’s CTO was one of the creators of the Java programming language and he wanted to work with Java, which was being positioned in the 1990s as technology that would enable users to “connect all the electronic devices in the world, including TVs.” “It was an exciting vision of the future, and I wanted to work on that future,” he said. Disney eventually acquired Starwave and LaBerge wound up working on automated products for NFL. com, NBA.com, NASCAR.com and what would become ESPN.com. He became the second CTO of Disney-owned ESPN, overseeing all media engineering, data and advertising. LaBerge was part of the ESPN team that designed and built the world’s first 1080p, IP broadcast production facility. He also worked on the ESPN app and was a key architect in the design, development and engineering of ESPN’s facilities in Bristol, Conn., Los Angeles, Charlotte, N.C., and Austin, Texas. He was also involved in building the facilities and infrastructure that connects ESPN’s worldwide facilities and the technology design and development to support the SEC Network. “The scale of our platforms and content is
astounding — hundreds of live channels, theatrical and episodic VOD content in a multiplicity of languages, delivered to thousands of partners and hundreds of products, all around the globe,” he said. His most recent challenge has been coordinating the technology teams from across The Walt Disney Co. and 21st Century Fox, which Disney acquired in 2018. Under LaBerge, the Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution technology team handles the development, engineering and deployment of consumer-facing digital products for the company. “Right now, we are building a next-generation digital content supply chain that delivers Disney content to our partners [like MVPDs, distributors] and products [like ABC News, TV Everywhere streaming products, and our direct-to-consumer products like Disney+],” LaBerge explained. “Between advances in wireless networking, the explosion of smartphones, shifting of media business models, and global access to the consumer,” he summarized, “it’s a great time to work in this industry, and it’s an even better time to be a consumer.” — Gary Arlen
Founder and CEO, Blackmagic Design
Take a high school TV studio and add an Apple II computer. That’s how Grant Petty started his career. “I found the technology interesting and enjoyed playing around in the television studio and programming the computer,” Petty recalled. That led to an internship at a local TV station. The internship and other early experiences fueled Petty when he established Blackmagic Design, which creates video editing products, digital film cameras, color correctors, video converters, video live production switchers, disk recorders and real-time film scanners for the feature film, post-production and TV industries. Its customer base ranges from “Oscarwinning cinematographers to 15-year-old students. “Just look at YouTube,” Petty said. “Young kids are making absolutely fantastic content. They deserve access to professional gear just as much as the people in Hollywood. Our early capture cards allowed a lot of new designers to move into television, and you could see the change in broadcast graphics,” he said. One of Petty’s favorite experiences was the acquisition of DaVinci, Blackmagic’s first purchase. “I enjoyed turning around DaVinci because of my history with telecine and color
ou have to imagine Y a future and be able to try new ideas ...” correction,” he recalled. “I was fascinated with how the colorists would manipulate the colors and create these beautiful images.” Since DaVinci’s products were “expensive and only available to high-end clients,” Petty focused on “making them available to all creatives as free software,” which he calls a “very significant moment.” Attesting to the popularity of Blackmagic Design’s products is their widespread use. In the 2018 TV season, more than 55 shows (broadcast, cable, streaming) used the company’s tools, according to Petty, whose goal is “to empower creativity by making film, television and AV production equipment affordable for everyone.” His company has more than 1,000 employees in seven countries now. “You don’t get to a new product by market research or measuring a market,” he added. “You have to imagine a future and be able to try new ideas and then accurately evaluate the results when a new product launches. “The younger generation is more open to taking creative risks, which is great, and they should never let themselves plateau,” he said. — Gary Arlen
THE WATCH LIST 2020
Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Amazon Web Services
As one of the architects behind Amazon’s cloud services, Vogels drives technological innovation at scale. Following a stint in the Royal Netherlands Navy in his youth, Vogels went into cancer research and soon realized “it wasn’t the field for me.” He shifted to computing research, focused on large-scale distributed computing (and is now deemed one of the world’s top experts on ultrascalable systems). Vogels has seen many industries, including media and entertainment, leverage cloud agility to roll out new applications and innovate faster. “The original M&E processes and workflows were developed in a time where you didn’t have modern cloud capabilities and everything existed onsite,” he said. “So collaborating with another studio often meant literally shipping hard drives back and forth. But, we’ve started to see this model flip on its head.” He says AWS now helps M&E customers with “everything from broadcast and film production workflows, to visual effects and rendering,
to live and on-demand streaming” and that customers use AWS “to collaborate in ways they couldn’t before.” Vogels described many use cases where M&E companies are using AWS, highlighting how Hulu uses AWS to support more than 50 channels for its Live TV offering; how Netflix uses more than 100,000 server instances on AWS, and how Amazon Prime uses AWS for seamless targeted advertising. Other clients include CBS Interactive (CBSi), which employs the cloud to support major events such as March Madness and the Super Bowl at speed and scale, and film franchises like “Avatar” and the “Lord of the Rings” film franchises, which use visual effects from Weta powered by AWS. Vogels emphasized that customers are at the heart Amazon’s innovation. A recent example of that is the 2019 Tech Emmy Award-winning work that Discovery and Fox NE&O (of Walt Disney Television) undertook to shift their media supply chains to the cloud with AWS and partners at SDVI Corp. and Evertz Technologies. Werner expects that with changing dynamics and economic demands, media companies will continue to move their businesses to the cloud “to make their video infrastructures more automated and scalable so that they can put all their energy into innovating new services.” The cloud will enable “high-quality viewing experiences with low latency and no buffering,” Vogel noted. He also foresees the growing use of machine learning for highlight creation, video clipping, live subtitling, metadata extraction and interactive features such as polling and live chat to engage more deeply with viewers. — Gary Arlen
Poppy Crum, PhD
Chief Scientist, Dolby Laboratories, Adjunct Professor, Stanford University
WERNER VOGELS: PHOTO BY MARKRALSTON/GETTY IMAGES
Crum is “a big thinker” about media optimization and the communications environment with years of detailed technology experience. From ITU and CTA standardization efforts and work on ATSC consumer efforts to HDR imaging and immersive technology innovation, she has helped develop new consumer experiences. Crum enjoys examining topics such as “creative intent” and the “human technology connection” leveraging her background as a neuroscientist and technologist. “As a technology company, we are about delivering creative tools that allow artists, developers and producers to tell the human stories they want to convey in the richest ways possible,” she said. “The methods we can use to do that are rapidly changing with the proliferation of on-device and in-home sensors paired with machine learning and AI.” At Dolby, Crum has spent the last decade integrating neuroscience and data science into algorithm development, technology strategy and redefining immersive experiences. At Stanford, she harnesses immersive environments, like gaming, AR and VR, to impact neuroplasticity and learning. “Ray Dolby understood the importance of modeling human perception in building technology,” Crum said, and
her career arc fits that framework. She worked in broadcast as a technical engineer and on-air presenter at a local NPR station in Iowa. With advanced degrees in experimental psychology and neuroscience, she was research faculty in biomedical engineering before joining Dolby — all, she says, “to better understand human experience.” “Personalization is key to our future,” Crum believes. “It’s an important part of ATSC 3.0, [which includes] formats that support personalization. Our environments, bodies, devices and engagement are all dynamic when we experience content. Personalization is key to bringing these together to improve experiences for each of us.” Crum has co-authored 10 patent families connected to about three dozen patents, is a board member of CTA and has served on DARPA’s Defense Science Research Council. “If you’re too comfortable or confident, you’re probably not paying attention. Check yourself,” she advised. “Be comfortable being the only one who believes. Then spend your time as your own worst critic. It’s empowering.” — Gary Arlen
THE WATCH LIST 2020
CTO, Direct-to-Consumer Group, Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution, The Walt Disney Co.
The evolving TV business “is not a passive sport, it’s an active sport,” said Joe Inzerillo. From his first job for the Chicago White Sox (where he handled broadcasting and other business affairs) through Major League Baseball (and its MLB Advanced Media unit), Inzerillo has blazed through roles in the fast-changing world to media technology. Now he oversees the technology aspects of streaming services Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+, but he remembers the “early days” just 15 years ago. “We were so early that we were making it up as we went,” Inzerillo said, calling the process “exciting but terrifying.” During his Chicago days Inzerillo worked at the United Center (home of the Bulls and the Blackhawks), where he handled broadcast and telecommunications. When he became CTO of Major League Baseball in New York, he already had streaming video experience as well as a broadcast TV background — a useful combo when he launched MLB.tv, the first over-the-top sports package. At MLB, Inzerillo oversaw technology development for BamTech Media, which powered MLB’s streaming service, as well as managed internet rights for all 30 MLB teams. Bamtech
licensed its technology for delivering digital content and applications to sports entertainment clients such as ESPN and World Wrestling Entertainment. When The Walt Disney Co. (parent of ESPN) bought Bamtech in 2017, Inzerillo moved to Disney. Inzerillo credits “learning by failure,” making mistakes in order to gain valuable experiences. And he’s happy that “a lot of those happened before anyone else was paying attention.” Given his media technology portfolio, Inzerillo expects that video will continue to expand. “Just because the streaming business is booming doesn’t mean prior media will go away; it’s nowhere near tapped out,” he said. He is especially enthusiastic about “group watch,” a system that makes it more engaging for viewers to share a “communal experience” even though they are watching programs from different locations. Inzerillo still loves the technology, citing the in-camera special effect used for the Disney+ series “The Mandalorian.” “That kind of technology creates immersive effects to put people into places [in the story],” Inzerillo said. “That’s the most extraordinary development, letting you think about storytelling in a much different way.” — Gary Arlen
Executive Vice President-Technology Strategy & Architecture, Discovery Inc.
Systems integration is at the core of Miller’s concept of the new television ecosystem. “To do something transformational, you have to build it,” Miller explained, quickly adding that the process requires “an effective supply chain” and a constant awareness of “the creative processes.” “You need all that system visibility to drive workflow in order to become a more efficient business,” he added. “Our goal has been to develop things that [expand] the creative process.” For the multiplatform, internationally based Discovery media network, that has necessitated a “single technical approach” to consolidate its digital and traditional platforms. “The content factory is providing material for all the distribution platforms,” he explained. That requires integration throughout media operations, including ad sales systems, marketing systems, software development and more, Miller added. “The next big thing is determining how to bring in new tools for production, including machine vision,” Miller predicted. “A lot of our focus will be on the live production process, including machine learning.” In his 15 years at Discovery, Miller has supervised the design and construction of its production facility and broadcast center and manages day-to-day operations across Discovery’s North American production and broadcast facilities. He also oversees the company’s Global Media Engineering, R&D and IT Development teams.
“People think we pioneered the move to the cloud; [we’ve seen it as] a means to an end,” he said. “We didn’t just want to lift and shift to the cloud. We wanted to reimagine how we do it.” Miller believes the “monumental shift” toward digital platforms has been “the big disrupter,” which is driving the reimagining throughout the media technology business. Miller foresees continuing growth of cloud services in all segments of the TV industry, including live news and sports. That’s a vital factor given Discovery’s sizeable ownership role in Eurosport and news in Eastern Europe. “As a tech leader in the industry, we had a jump start,” Miller explained. “We started our shift about three to four years before others,” he said. “We struggled like others with the stack and bringing everything together.” He cited the process of identifying appropriate technology, automation and advanced tools to get content onto “all those screens,” and the “elegance of software” as a primary tool in the transformation. — Gary Arlen
o do something T transformational, you have to build it.”
THE WATCH LIST 2020
VP, N.Y. Engineering and Strategic Initiatives, WarnerMedia Global Broadcast Technology Services
“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?,” is not just an old song title. It was a daunting unknown objective for the ultraorganized project manager Lisa Pedrogo in mid-November. She has overseen major projects for CNN and Turner Broadcasting (prior to its merger into AT&T’s WarnerMedia), but didn’t yet know the plan for CNN’s live Times Square telecast on Dec. 31. Pedrogo supervised last year’s WarnerMedia development of its new 110,000 square-foot Hudson Yards facility and, 15 years earlier, managed the creation of CNN’s production venue in the then-new Time-Warner Center at Columbus Circle. The uncertainty about this year’s New Year’s Eve party was frustrating, although she felt able to handle whatever task ultimately evolved. Pedrogo manages the engineering team that supports news and sports production at Hudson Yards, including maintenance of all technical production equipment and facilities for CNN, plus desktop support for other WarnerMedia news, sports and entertainment groups. When she began her career, with a nontechnical degree, Pedrogo worked as a production assistant
for CNN’s Business News and assigned to its flagship Lou Dobbs newscast. She moved up to an assignment editor and producer and eventually joined Dobbs when he launched Space.com. After the dotcom bubble burst, Pedrogo returned to CNN. At CNNfn, she oversaw the media management process during the conversion to Avid nonlinear editing. CNN was a beta test site for Avid, she explained, which had only one other customer for the product. “The variety of formats that are out there and remain there,” is the major hurdle for today’s media industry, Pedrogo said, citing the strategic decisions that went into plans for WarnerMedia’s Hudson Yards studio, which supports multimedia content creation and other forward-vision features. “We are moving to software-based technologies.” IP is the next big thing, Pedrogo added. “Making it affordable for smaller networks is the challenge,” as is security. By mid-November, Pedrogo was still thinking about the New Year’s Eve telecast, knowing that whenever the production decision is made, her team will be up to the challenge. — Gary Arlen
TO & Director of Product Management, C Infrastructure & Networking, Imagine Communications
Mailhot summarizes his career as “32 years, seven companies, one desk.” Despite multiple companies on his resumé, Mailhot said he has never “job-hopped.” The companies he’s been with have changed hands many times, but his focus has remained steady. His biggest career move came with AT&T Bell Labs in the early 1990s when he worked on the team developing the first DTV encoders. He recalls the value of seven companies collaborating to create a new system. “We were using the best electronics available to build these signal processing systems, and now the idea was to apply that design experience to television — digitally compressing the television signal for digital transmission to consumers,” Mailhot recalled. He was involved in the FCC’s Advisory Committee on Advanced Television Service and the Advanced Television Standards Committee, and now is deeply involved in NextGen TV standards through his role as editor of the SMPTE 2110 standard for video transport over IP. During his years at Harris Broadcast, Mailhot was involved in a variety of compression, video and audio processing and conversion and IP-based “virtual routing” systems and devices. In 2014, he accepted a
Television Engineering Emmy Award for Harris’s role in standardization implementation of interoperable JPEG2000 compression. At the core of Mailhot’s thinking is moving the TV industry to IP “to leverage that to what we do in television.” He cites 100 GigE as “tremendous” and reminds colleagues that viewers now watch video through “delivery platforms” not just the over the air. Since he moved his latest desk to Imagine Communications, Mailhot has focused on the development and deployment of standards-based uncompressed-over-IP routing systems and related control systems and the development of SMPTE 2110-based technologies. He is also currently responsible for traditional and IP-based routing, processing, multiviewer, and infrastructure portfolios. Throughout his career, Mailhot has learned to keep in mind that, “Television is not a technology business. We are a content business — where engineering’s mission is to enable/facilitate the creation and delivery of the best content, on a supportable budget, at the necessary quality level. “Standards matter because they are a form of communicating between organizations about technical expectations,” he added. — Gary Arlen
THE WATCH LIST 2020 broadcast industry with more than 35 years of experience in engineering and management. He joined NEP in 2000, becoming president in 2014. Levine’s positive impact at NEP is reflected in his successful integration of key businesses to create NEP U.S. Broadcast Services, and in his creative business strategies. Known as a down-to earth, get-it-done leader, Levine oversees some of the biggest events worldwide and a team of more than 600 staff.
16 Dr. Andrew Cross
President of R&D, Vizrt Group
In his tenure at NewTek as president and CTO, Cross oversaw the day-to-day operation of the company, establishing plans and strategy for the development of the full line of NewTek products. He has a Ph.D and has published more than 20 technical papers in peer-reviewed scientific conferences and journals. Cross is currently president of R&D for the newly formed Vizrt Group.
11 Mark A. Aitken
SVP of Advanced Technology, Sinclair Broadcast Group, President, ONE Media 3.0
Aitken joined SBG in 1999 and is responsible for development and deployment of next-gen technologies such as ATSC 3.0. He leads Sinclair’s “ONE Media 3.0” and is a board member of “Saankhya Labs.” Aitken also is a member of the AFCCE, IEEE and SMPTE, and active participant in NAB, ATSC and other industry organizations. He is a recipient of multiple awards from Broadcasting & Cable, ATSC, TV Technology and NAB.
12 David Ross
CEO, Ross Video
Since Ross joined the company in 1991, it has grown into a global company with 900 employees making more than 15 acquisitions in the past 11 years. Along with live production products and solutions, Ross is now a full service packager creating content, operating a fleet of eight trucks, four flypacks and a new $4M studio. The company’s tech innovations has led to Ross receiving many awards, honors and degrees including an Emmy with his name on it.
13 Paul Shen
CEO, TVU Networks
Shen has 35 years in the TV industry. He’s a serial entrepreneur who has founded and built innovative companies targeting digital and IP-based video. Throughout his career, he’s been involved in developing HD video standards, ATSC, MPEG and video compression standards. He built TVU to help lead the evolution of the media supply chain by delivering innovative transmission technologies and data-driven workflows that use AI.
14 Richard Duke
Chief Cloud Solutions Architect, Avid
Duke is responsible for helping customers “cloudify” their workflows and infrastructure using Avid’s industry-leading tools, including the Nexis storage platform, Media Central solutions and Avid’s Creative Editing tools. Duke has been working in the film and broadcast industry for more than 20 years, and has developed and deployed some of the most industry-leading solutions in public and private clouds.
15 Glen Levine
President, NEP U.S. Broadcast Services
Levine is a leader in the television 52 Broadcastingcable.com
17 Chuck Meyer
Technology Fellow, Grass Valley
Meyer has contributed to numerous technology advances throughout his 30 years of developing products for the broadcast industry. His current focus is on virtualization of content creation workflows and development of the technology and tools necessary to enable them. He has held positions ranging from engineer to CEO; has published papers and articles, and co-authored “The Book” and derivative works. Meyer is a SMPTE Fellow, a recognized technology innovator and has been awarded more than 40 patents.
18 Dr. Eric R. Fossum
John H. Krehbiel Sr. Professor for Emerging Technlogies, Dartmouth College
Fossum invented and commercialized the CMOS active-pixel image sensor with intrapixel charge transfer as part of his work at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech, which is the basis of 30 billion cameras so far. He is a device physicist, entrepreneur and now a professor of engineering at Dartmouth. He has received honors including the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering and election to the National Academy of Engineering.
19 Gary Demos
Founder, CEO, Image Essence
Demos has pioneered the development of computer-generated images and digital image processing for use in motion pictures, and was awarded an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Scientific and Engineering Award along with John Whitney Jr., “For the Practical Simulation of Motion Picture Photograph By Means of ComputerGenerated Images.” He is currently researching the quanta image sensor. Demos also founded DemoGraFX. He earned the AMPAS 2005 Gordon Sawyer Oscar for lifetime technical achievement, and is a SMPTE Fellow.
Technology Policy Specialist of Content Protection Technologies, Intel
Protecting content from piracy is an essential and necessary element in the age of digital media. Balogh has played an important role in developing the technologies behind HDCP, (high bandwidth digital content protection), a specification developed by Intel to protect digital entertainment content across digital interfaces. He is also president of Digital Content
Protection LLC, an organization that licenses technologies for protecting premium commercial entertainment content and received a 2014 Technical & Engineering Emmy Award for this achievement.
21 Katie Hinsen
Executive Producer, DI and Dailies, Nice Shoes
Hinsen is an award-winning postproduction executive with a background as a finishing artist, engineer, editor, VFX artist and colorist. She brings her expertise to bear in building, launching and running post-production facilities globally, and is engaged in exploring and researching the technical innovations transforming the entertainment industry. Hinsen is a mentor for emerging talent, and the cofounder of Blue Collar Post Collective. She is building and developing digital intermediate and dailies facilities across North America.
22 Richard M. Friedel
EVP, Corporate Engineering, Fox Television Stations Group
Friedel supports Fox’s 29 local stations throughout the U.S. and is overseeing their rollout of ATSC 3.0. Previously, he headed Fox Network Engineering & Operations, responsible for the technical operations of the national and regional television businesses. Early on at Fox, he helped launch Fox News Channel. Friedel is a SMPTE Fellow and life member of IEEE. In 2018, he was awarded a lifetime achievement Emmy by the National Academy of Arts and Sciences.
23 Renard Jenkins
VP, Content Transmission & Production Technology, WarnerMedia
Jenkins oversees teams that support global television and feature film productions and provide production technologies including studio and production applications, IT, production pipeline workflows and more. His teams manage the technical strategy, content acquisition, IP infrastructure and site connectivity for live events including sports, entertainment and news for all WarnerMedia brands. He has more than 30 years of experience at companies including PBS, TV One and Discovery.
24 Mike Strein
Director, Engineering & Technology, ABC TV Networks/ABC News
Strein has spent the last 30 years with ABC News. He has overseen the transformation from analog to digital, from SD to HD and now from SDI to IP, and has been in the forefront of most technical advances at the network. Strein has more than 50 Disney Inventor awards, which have resulted in more than 30 U.S. patents. He is a SMPTE Fellow and currently on the board of AMWA.
25 Michelle Munson
Co-Founder & CEO, Eluvio
Munson leads Eluvio, which was awarded the 2020 Engineering Excellence Award by the HPA. She previously founded Aspera in 2004 and was CEO until 2017, including through acquisition by IBM in 2014. She created the Aspera FASP transport technology, an Emmy Award-winning technology used in the digital media supply chains for high-speed, low-cost secure digital content transport. She holds several patents and is a SMPTE Fellow.
Georgia on Everyone’s Mind Political cash pouring into Savannah stations as Senate races heat up By Michael Malone firstname.lastname@example.org @BCMikeMalone
s the two Senate races in Georgia will decide which party will rule the chamber in Washington, the spending is positively pouring in at stations in the state. It started in Savannah the day after Election Day, according to one general manager, and will continue until the runoff elections Jan. 5. “This is unbelievable,” Benjamin Hart, WJCL president and general manager, said. “Money is pouring into this state in ungodly amounts.” The four candidates and assorted PACs will spend more than $100 million across the state in the two months leading up to the runoffs, according to Kantar/CMAG. Larry Silbermann,
VP and general manager of WTOC, said the spending across those two months will amount to more than the station gets in a typical election year. “We’re certainly the eye of the storm right now,” he said. Gray Television’s WTOC, a CBS affiliate, is the market leader. Nexstar has NBC outlet WSAV, which runs The CW and MyNetworkTV on its subchannels. Hearst Television owns ABC affiliate WJCL. Sinclair holds Fox affiliate WTGS. Comcast is the dominant pay TV operator in DMA No. 89. WTOC, which does not subscribe to Nielsen, has ruled Savannah news for decades. It features anchor stability, more local news than the competitors and what Silbermann calls “a special connection” to the community. “We continually work at trying to be better,” he said. “We appreciate the legacy status but we don’t take it for
WTOC helped America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia raise some $20,000 during a Thanksgiving food drive.
granted. We don’t get complacent.” WTOC dominated household ratings in November, per Comscore, winning the 6-7 a.m. and 5 and 6 p.m. news races handily, and posting a 6.0 rating at 11 p.m., ahead of WSAV’s 3.3 and WJCL’s 1.6. With “On Your Side” branding, WSAV also offers viewers considerable anchor tenure. Station talent can often be found out and about in Savannah, not only covering news but turning up at community events. “Our anchors connect with the market in ways well beyond on air,” said Marc Hefner, VP and general manager. WJCL had been an also-ran in Savannah, but the station has been picking up ground. Hart, a former news director at WISN Milwaukee, was named WJCL general manager in September. WJCL tenaciously covers politics, and offers a level of newsroom professionalism that most stations cannot muster, Hart said. WJCL is an active participant in Hearst TV’s bridgebuilding Project CommUNITY initiative. “We are trying to find the things that divide us, and the things that are holding us together,” said Hart. Cory Culleton, WTGS VP and general manager, splits his time between Savannah and Sinclair’s stations in Gainesville, Florida. WTGS offers 10 p.m. nightly news. The news battle has heated up in Savannah, and that’s how Silbermann — like Hart, he’s a former news director — likes it. “I’m all for a competitive market,” he said. “For journalism to thrive, there needs to be a competitiveness among the stations. It’s healthy.” Nestled on the Georgia-South Carolina border, on the Atlantic Ocean, the Savannah market includes a chunk of South Carolina, including Hilton Head. Tourism is a giant economic driver in the picturesque Coastal Empire. “When you go through downtown Savannah, there’s nothing like it on earth,” Hefner said. Every tourist destination is going through a tough time in the pandemic, Savannah included. Its enormous St. Patrick’s Day parade may not happen, but Savannah is also a lively port city, and features a strong military presence. That balanced portfolio smoothes out many of the economic potholes. Savannah oozes charm and character. Hart likens its architectural beauty to New Orleans, where he was a producer at WDSU, but said the measured pace of Savannah is better suited to take it all in. “It’s the most uniquely beautiful city I’ve been to,” he said. ●
WJCL GM HART ADDRESSES VIEWERS DIRECTLY WHILE HE’S NEW to the job, WJCL president/ GM Benjamin Hart is easing into the role of providing on-air editorials. His most recent ones, going for about 90 seconds, stressed the importance of voting and urged Americans to come together after the divisive presidential election. “You and I are a part of the most glorious country in the world,” Hart
said in the one about coming together. “Free and fair elections are the key to what makes us the best country on earth. Now that we’ve all had our say, it's time for us to listen to each other, work together and move forward.” Hearst TV general managers are encouraged to address viewers directly
with editorials. Hart, who succeeded Tim Morrissey atop WJCL, said the editorials “articulate who we are as a station and a company.” Hart hopes to make them a weekly thing when he knows the market better. For now, he steps up when he feels he can add an informed voice to the dialogue. “When there’s something important to say, it’s time to say something,” Hart said. — MM
“WE’LL GET IT DONE.” In what is perhaps the most affirmative statement yet regarding HBO Max’s sixmonth distribution impasse with Roku, Andy Forssell, the top product executive for the streaming service, told CNET that it’s only a matter of time before a deal with the No. 1 OTT platform operator gets done. Forssell and other WarnerMedia executives were making the press rounds following the media conglomerate’s landmark announcement that it will premiere all 17 Warner Bros. theatrical releases day-and-date on HBO Max. The consensus has emerged among video industry observers that WarnerMedia and Roku are in at least somewhat advanced stages of talks to put the HBO Max app on the top connected TV device system in the U.S. But the WarnerMedia theatrical slate announcement will do little to accelerate the timeline. Forssell added that Roku has “been a good partner for years; they’ll be a good partner for years to come. We’ll figure something out. I have nothing to say about the timeline, and I don't think today’s announcement changes anything dramatically ... but we already both had really strong imperatives to find a way to work together. So we have to go do that, and we'll get it done.” — DF
ViacomCBS Takes to The Cloud With AWS Amazon unit to help media firm migrate its entire broadcast footprint By Daniel Frankel email@example.com @dannyfrankel
AWS technology will deliver some 425 linear TV channels for ViacomCBS.
iacomCBS has agreed to migrate its entire broadcast operational footprint to Amazon Web Services. The deal calls for the company to move its complete linear TV wherewithal, including 40 global data and media centers and 425 channels, to the world’s biggest cloud services operation. The shift, Amazon said, will enable the broadcaster to “spin up new channels faster, dynamically assemble live content to optimize delivery over any distribution channel, add image and video analysis to applications and automate workflows.” ViacomCBS plans to use AWS Elemental media services as well as AWS machine learning technologies. These include Amazon Rekognition, an AWS service that adds
Google TV Can Now Aggregate From Over 25 Third-Party Apps SINCE LAUNCHING ITS new aggregation overlay for Android TV, dubbed Google TV, along with its new Chromecast device in October, Google has made some progress in terms of expanding the reach of the platform. The name Google TV seems to serve two purposes. It will replace the “Android TV” brand over time. But for now, Google TV refers to the new content aggregation
interface that sits on top of Android TV. Beyond being able to surface and recommend content from Googleowned apps such as YouTube, YouTube TV and Google Play Movies, Google
intelligent image and video analysis to applications. Also featured is Amazon SageMaker, AWS’s service for building, training, and deploying machine learning models, to quickly scale video processing resources, automate workflows and predict audience preferences. “With AWS, we will be able to automate and streamline our processes for content production, licensing and distribution to consumer streaming services and innovate faster to deliver improved customer experiences,” said Phil Wiser, executive VP and chief technology officer at ViacomCBS, in a statement. “We are thinking and acting aggressively to build on the major disruptions that ViacomCBS is bringing to the market with our leading global content and services. AWS’s deep portfolio of services will help us unleash the power of content in new and interesting ways that benefit our advertisers, licensing partners and streaming services.” ●
TV now has native integration with more than 25 thirdparty apps, including Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney Plus, HBO Max, Peacock and Pluto TV. (Notably, that list does not include Netflix.) Like a number of other large video technology companies, Google is seeking to create a one-stop app that searches for and surfaces content based on user profile data. And the more apps that it can reach into, the more intuitive Google TV can be. — DF
Getty Images; Google; HBO Max
HBO MAX’S FORSSELL ON ROKU DEAL: ‘WE’LL GET IT DONE’
What TV Stations Really Want From Syndicators in 2021 It’s not another talk show from a big-name star By Paige Albiniak firstname.lastname@example.org @PaigeA
ocal TV stations again proved their importance in 2020 when audiences seeking information about the pandemic, protests and politics tuned in in droves. But while it’s clear that local TV stations aren’t going anywhere — and still need programming to fill all of those non-news, non-network hours — the flight to streaming and audience fragmentation means the financial model is more challenging than ever. So how to thread that needle? The answer varies, but working with partners who can come up with innovative ideas tops station executives’ lists of what they are looking for in 2021. “A lot of people over the last couple of years have really started to do new things,” Frank Cicha, executive VP of programming, Fox Television Stations, said. “There’s a shift in attitude about how all this works.” For example, Meredith and Sony Pictures Television are slowly rolling out a new entertainment magazine, People (the TV Show!). People debuted this fall in Meredith’s 12 markets and SPT plans to have the show cleared nationwide by 2022 — a timetable that used to be unacceptable. Another innovation from Sony is offering Dr. Oz spinoff The Good Dish to stations with lots of customizable advertising opportunities for local stations. For example, it is working with grocery store chains to sponsor downloadable lists of recipe ingredients that will drive viewers into the store.
The Mediator: Fox Television Stations; People: Sony Pictures Television
Stations Like New Ideas
With all of these ideas and more, station buyers say: bring them on. “We need to support the independents as much as possible,” said one station buyer. “Independents have been the engine that have pushed the industry forward.” Independent studios — such as DebmarMercury and SPT — operate without an affiliate network or TV stations, which means they are free to work with the highest bidder or most interested party on any given project. “What pushes the marketplace forward is the trust you get from groups who are more agile, smaller, more adept and more hungry,” that source said. “That’s where change comes from, the change doesn’t come from groups who are established and content with where they are.” Other companies — such as Comcast-owned NBCUniversal or The Walt Disney Co. — tend
to develop projects for their own stations and then sell them to non-owned stations in other markets. That’s not entirely bad, because it means that stations in markets that aren’t New York, Los Angeles or Chicago (and sometimes Dallas), have access to shows starring well-known talent such as Drew Barrymore, Kelly Clarkson or Tamron Hall that they might otherwise not have access to. But stations know that expensive shows aren’t really in their budgets anymore unless they can be subsidized elsewhere. That’s where station buyers see opportunity in things like up-and-coming advertising-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) networks, such as Fox-owned Tubi and ViacomCBSowned Pluto TV. Many are free to watch, although the largest, Disney-owned Hulu’s ad-supported tier, still costs $6 a month. NBCUniversal’s ad-supported Peacock is free with subscription tiers. WarnerMedia’s HBO Max is looking at launching an ad-supported tier this spring. As those services look to differentiate themselves, they will be looking for more programming, and station executives are eyeing them as potential partners. “Something I would like to see in the future is a way that streaming could contribute to the overall revenue of a show,” Cicha said. “Once we get to a place where barter spots can be monetized on streaming, that could open up a whole new world.”
Fox in March will test courtroom show The Mediator, starring Ice-T (above). Meredith and Sony Pictures Television began a slow rollout of People (the TV Show!) this fall.
Tests also remain important to station groups. This March, Fox is testing a half-hour court show The Mediator from Ice-T and former Warner Bros. syndication executive Stuart Krasnow and more tests are expected to be on the way. “The way that show came to us is so much about how these things will need to get done in the future,” Cicha said, with producers willing to shoulder some of the financial risks. Krasnow comes from Warner Bros., so he understands the economics of syndication from the stations’ point of view. “I don’t want to sound draconian, but if there’s not some other way to finance these syndicated shows, there won’t be syndicated shows,” Cicha said. “Still, I’m optimistic. Once people realize this and understand, all of these conversations get a lot easier and I think there’s way more interest now in trying new things.” Another area that’s changing is the use of library programming. “People are getting more creative with deals for things like off-network hours,” Cicha said. That includes such shows as NBCUniversal’s Dateline, renewed in more than 75% of the country earlier this month for a fifth season as a syndicated strip, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which is coming out for a syndicated run next fall. “Networks are continuing to rely on those types of procedurals, and studios aren’t going to get the kind of money that cable networks used to give for them,” Cicha said.
That spells opportunity for groups like Fox, which has many non-network-affiliated MyNetwork stations to program, complete with hours of primetime real estate available to interested programmers. Stations also are starting to fill some hours with repeats of long-running shows that have left or are leaving production. NBCUniversal has been offering Jerry Springer to stations for two years now, even though the show went out of production in 2018. Next year, CBS Television Distribution’s Judge Judy will end first-run production, but the show will live on in repeats on stations across the country. With 25 years of episodes in the can, viewers will hardly be able to tell the difference, and repeats of Judge Judy perform nearly as well as Judy originals. (Meanwhile, Judge Judy Sheindlin is taking first-run production of a new show over to Amazon’s free ad-supported streaming service IMDb TV, where it will premiere next fall.) Maybe the most surprising thing is that station executives aren’t wishing for more programming — the fall 2021 slate already looks pretty full, with such shows as Jay Leno’s You Bet Your Life coming from Fox, Nick Cannon back on track from Debmar-Mercury, a talker starring Niecy Nash in the works from CBS Television Distribution and SPT’s aforementioned The Good Dish and game show Common Knowledge, hosted by Joey Fatone. ●
CMG’s Pruett: Station Business Must Innovate Owner Apollo willing to invest in streaming to achieve growth By Jon Lafayette email@example.com @jlafayette
teve Pruett, chairman of Cox Media Group (CMG), thinks the local broadcast business still has some life in it, with potential to do much more. The core of what stations do hasn’t changed much for 70 years, said Pruett, a former Sinclair Broadcast Group executive who advised Apollo Global Management before it bought the Cox stations for about $3 billion in 2019. “I take great exception with people who think our business is declining,” he said. “It’s only declining because we failed to find new ways to do things.” The pandemic has dampened merger and acquisition activity, slowing Apollo’s drive to scale up by buying more stations. But Apollo is encouraging CMG to invest in innovations that produce profitable revenue. “The great thing about Apollo is they don't shy away from investing in something if you show them it's accretive,” Pruett said. “They want accretive growth. They want to know, what are the parts of the model we need to invest in and what are the parts of the model we need to make more efficient?” Most of those innovations Cox Media Group is exploring move the traditional broadcast business deeper into digital media. While Sinclair has built a centralized streaming platform for its stations, called Stirr, Cox Media Group has focused on making stations accessible individually, particularly over via smart TVs and connected devices. The results have been robust, according to Pruett. “At any given time, 10% of our audience is probably streaming, and it’s growing as a percentage,” he said. “It’s important for us to make ourselves available to our viewers who want to view in other ways,” he said, noting that for the Cox Media Group stations, streaming views and video starts spiked as the election neared. The viewers who came in via digital media were younger than traditional local TV viewers, and in many cases were not existing TV viewers.
Luring Nontraditional Viewers
“In Atlanta, where CMG owns WSB-TV, we’re seeing about 20% to 25% of those
need more technologically advanced ways to mangage their time? The answer for all of this is yes,” he said. A problem for the local station business is it has yet to come up with a standardized, automated way to connect with agency media buyers. “Broadcasters have this fear of programmatic driving down the rates,” Pruett said. “Don’t call it programmatic. Call it automated buying. It’s very close, but it’s not there because there’s no agreement for how to get it there among broadcasters. It’s got to get there.” Beyond advertising, Pruett talks about maximizing the value of what stations put on the air. A key to doing that is turning the station’s viewers into users through ecommerce. CMG stations work with the TV shopping service Knocking to put a local version of a show called Steals and Deals on the air that lets viewers buy items being shown in the studio. “We’re making a lot of money with it,” Pruett said. “Meredith is on board. A couple of other broadcasters are testing it. It’s working for us.” That’s one example of how what’s good for CMG’s stations can be good for broadcasting overall. Pruett said he’s interested in ways broadcasters can get together legally to set standards and share best practices without colluding or being anti-competitive.
Building Scale Together
viewers don’t view any television stations there,” Pruett said. “We are capturing viewers that are not using linear television the traditional way.” At some point, CMG might create a consolidated streaming platform for its stations, he said. “TV broadcasters should be really understanding these platforms and optimizing those platforms,” he said. CMG is able to monetize those viewers, making streaming profitable. But it could be doing better, Pruett said. CMG is also looking to transform its advertising business. “We have a very archaic way of selling. Should we have more automation in the way we prospect for new business? Do our sellers
Cox Media Group chairman Steve Pruett says innovation will unleash stations’ potential.
WSB Atlanta’s news app has helped draw in younger viewers.
“Stations ought to be able figure out a way to aggregate their viewers so they compete on a national scale,” he said. Station groups might be able to work together on programming. They could provide news nationally, covering events in the straightforward way local newscasts report on local happenings. Pruett notes that during the pandemic stations in Georgia all got together to carry the COVID press conferences. “That commitment to community service makes local broadcast unique among media outlets.” Nexstar Media Group is doing something like that with its three-hour News Nation newscast, featuring reporting from its stations and airing on its cable channel WGN America. “It’s not easy,” Pruett offered. “And I think they’re doing it well.” Working together, station groups could compete with conglomerates like Comcast and Disney, he said. They could do that by banding together to create content that would be unique to local television, either by making it themselves or hiring a studio to produce it. This is particularly important at a time when the big media companies are focused on streaming, potentially reducing the resources going to the traditional linear broadcast networks that affiliates depend on. “I think local broadcasters have spent too much time not thinking big enough,” Pruett said. “If the day comes when we all have to go on without networks, why wouldn’t we just create our own networks amongst ourselves? We’re all big, powerful companies.” ●
The O’Rielly Factor Departing FCC Republican on wrapping up 27 years in government By John Eggerton firstname.lastname@example.org @eggerton
B+C: You have issues with the FCC’s authority to do something about Section 230, right? MO: Yes, I have not seen any more clarity than we previously had. I don’t know how the legal structure was determined by the legal counsel to the chairman, and the chairman saying we do have authority. [The Trump Administration petitioned the FCC to regulate the edge via Section 230.] I would have to analyze it more closely, but I was skeptical before and I think I am still skeptical.
ommissioner Michael O’Rielly is exiting the Federal Communications Commission after seven years on the panel and 27 years in public service. He was a Capitol Hill staffer before getting the post. O’Rielly said he will be returning to the private sector, but has not yet firmed up plans as, when he conducted this exit interview, he was still working on agency business in preparation for the Dec. 10 public meeting. The Republican was an ally of chairman Ajit Pai’s deregulation efforts, though in some cases would have gone even further. He spoke to B+C senior content producer, Washington, John Eggerton about his time at the commission and the issues about which he remains passionate.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
B+C: In a speech to the Media Institute you said, ‘Massive changes are needed if we’re going to avoid sending legacy providers the way of the woolly mammoth.’ Michael O’Rielly: There is a very competitive, vibrant, over-the-top offering that is already there for consumers and that will be expanding in the future. That puts incredible pressure on legacy providers. Some of them are migrating their own services, so they are competing with themselves and that requires the FCC to, for one, better define the marketplace and competitors so we can better regulate as necessary. That means eliminating a number of burdens that no longer make any sense. We have barely scratched the surface with our media-modernization efforts. B+C: The FCC has never acted on requests to classify over-the-top as a multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD). Should the FCC treat them both the same, and should that be regulating OTT or deregulating traditional video? MO: I do have some deep questions about the authority of the FCC to do so, but I don’t think that is the right path to go. We should be providing relief to legacy providers rather than trying to capture over-the-top providers. Doing so is not going to make it better for consumers. We ought to instead give legacy providers a fighting chance. B+C: Any advice on how the government can prevent COVID-19 broadband
the First Amendment, which is paramount to me, and how it can’t be ignored whether other statutory provisions come or go. The First Amendment will live on regardless of what Congress does or doesn’t do on the [Section 230 internet] liability issue. Those people who were trying to say, ‘Oh, I am consistent with the First Amendment’ or ‘I really believe in the First Amendment. I just want to try and stick it to these groups for whatever reason,’ I just disagreed with that.
money from subsidizing overbuilds? MO: I think Congress has done a fairly decent job of trying to put some statutory obligations to prevent overbuilding, though I would have gone further. Overbuilding itself is not problematic — it’s subsidized overbuilding using CARES Act funding or any government funding. There will likely be more stimulus money and infrastructure money and it has to be very clear how the dollars will be spent. I realize the incredible need to get the dollars out the door to help stimulate the economy, but that is not how you should do telecom policy, especially when you are going to crush existing providers in the marketplace. B+C: What decision that you have been involved with do you think will have the most lasting impact? MO: I am very proud of the children’s television reforms. They aren’t as far as I would have liked them to go, but nobody sued and it provided the type of relief that is necessary. B+C: In that Media Institute speech, you talked about ‘purveyors of First Amendment gibberish … demeaning the values of the Constitution.’ Who were you talking about and to whom were you directing that? MO: That was about a larger conversation about regulating the edge. I don’t want to relive that speech, but it wasn’t targeted at any one person or one group or any segment. It was about highlighting the importance of
Michael O’Rielly has been a consistent vote for deregulation throughout his tenure on the FCC.
B+C: If you had a do-over, is there anything you would change? MO: I’m not sure there is. I won’t say I got everything right but based on the information I had, I made the soundest decision I could reflecting the record and the statute. I wish we could have done more together and that there was a more collaborative process. I think the current structure needs a lot of work. I probably would have pushed for more dereg, but I have been harping on that for years and I’m not sure I could have gotten any further on it. B+C: Any advice for your successor? MO: I try not to give anyone advice, but something I do say to everyone, not just my successor, but to anyone who wants to do this job is to read the items. Don’t take anyone else’s word for it. Do the homework yourself. Then you can have a thoughtful argument and make a thoughtful case. I won’t name names, but I was annoyed when some of my colleagues in the past didn’t always read the items, so when you went to argue a particular piece of something or sentence, they didn’t know what you were talking about. That, to me, is poor. Always understand what you are fighting for. B+C: What’s next? MO: To be determined. I have not spent too much time thinking about it because I am still voting on items. But I will just see where the road takes me. B+C: But I assume it will take you to the private sector? MO: Oh, yes. I am done with my government service. I’ve done 27 years in government. This is a moment when I think the Lord Almighty said, ‘Move on.’ I was willing to do some more time, but the powers that be said otherwise. ●
FATES & FORTUNES
People Notable executives on the move BRIEFLY NOTED Other industry execs making moves
AMC Networks has named Brett Dismuke general manager of WE tv and Urban Movie Channel, adding oversight of the female-focused network to his duties. Dismuke had been chief content officer of UMC since January.
Kathryn Washington was elevated to senior VP, television content at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, charged with funding “innovative, diverse and creative programming.” She was VP, television content.
Lara Richardson has joined Hallmark Channel parent Crown Media Family Networks as chief marketing officer. She comes from Discovery, where she was group executive VP of marketing for Discovery and Science Channel.
Jim Keller has joined Discovery as executive VP, digital ad sales and advanced advertising, based in New York and tasked with driving digital revenue for Discovery Plus. He was VP, head of national advertising sales at Hulu.
INTEGRAL AD SCIENCE
Digital ad verification firm Integral Ad Science has tapped Mehul Desai as country head, India. He most recently was chief operating officer at Scan-IT, where he led technical and business operations.
Analytics firm MarketCast has added Zoë Friend as corporate senior VP of customer research and insights. She led a team of 40 as head of Netflix’s content and marketing research practice for five years.
Rashida Jones was named president of MSNBC, succeeding 25-year veteran Phil Griffin at the helm of the cable news network. She had been a senior VP at NBC News and MSNBC.
Jamitha Fields was named to the new post of VP of diversity, inclusion and engagement at The Paley Center for Media. She had worked as the organization’s VP of development and client services for four years.
Riedel Communications, a provider of IP-enabled video solutions, has promoted Renaud Lavoie to senior VP, technology. He had worked as managing director of Riedel Montreal for about a year.
Jennifer Biry was named chief financial officer at WarnerMedia, succeeding now-AT&T CFO Pascal Desroches. She was most recently CFO of AT&T Communications’ mobility and entertainment organizations.
The WNET Group in New York has named James King as the new artistic director of its ALL ARTS multimedia platform. He is the former managing director of Harlem Stage, also in New York.
Tom Lowell was named executive VP and managing editor of news at Fox News Channel, tasked with overseeing daytime coverage. He had been VP and managing editor of news since 2016, overseeing network newsgathering.
Adriana Diaz and Jericka Duncan have been named anchors of CBS Weekend News. Diaz will anchor Saturdays from Chicago and Duncan will anchor Sundays from New York. … Lara Richardson was named chief marketing officer at Crown Media Family Networks. She had been group executive VP of marketing for Discovery and Science Channel. … Kids’ content company Genius Brands International has promoted Michael Jaffa to chief operating officer. He was general counsel and senior VP of business affairs. … Hearst Television has upped Matt Helf to director of its HTV Design unit in Orlando. He had been a brand research manager. … Mission Broadcasting has promoted Taunya Tourville-Bennett to station manager and general sales manager of duopoly KWBQ/ KASY Albuquerque, New Mexico. She had been local sales manager at the stations. … David Solomon was named CEO at independent cable ad rep firm Viamedia. He had been chief revenue officer. … Janet Dewart Bell has been named as chair of the Women’s Media Center. She is president of nonprofit organization LEAD Intergenerational Solutions.
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Est. TV Spend Top Network:
Est. TV Spend:
Estimated media value of in-network promos On the strength of 335.1 million TV ad impressions, a promo for Freeform’s 25 Days of Christmas stunt takes first place. NBC, the ranking’s sole broadcaster, grabs second to promote medical drama Nurses, while MTV Christopher Polk/E! Entertainment
hypes reality competition The Challenge: Double Agents in third and the MTV Movie & TV Awards in fourth. Finally, in fifth, Nat Geo promotes Trafficked, a new documentary series hosted by investigative journalist Mariana van Zeller. The Freeform generated the highest iSpot Attention Index number (115), meaning viewers were on average highly likely to watch it all the way through (vs. interrupting it by changing the channel, pulling up the guide, fast-forwarding or turning off the TV).
Est. TV Spend:
90.69 NFL Football
Est. Media Value: $3,091,171
TV Ad Impressions: Interruption Rate:
Total TV ad impressions within all U.S. households, including national linear (live and time-shifted), VOD plus OTT and local
Est. TV Spend:
Spend Within Industry:
Est. TV Spend: Interruption Rate:
TV Ad Impressions: 335,111,169
TV Ad Impressions:
TOP 5 PROMOTIONS
Spend Within Industry:
25 Days of Christmas, Freeform
GEICO ▲ 141%
TV Ad Impressions:
Spend Within Industry:
Est. TV Spend:
89.27 NFL Football
1. 25 Days of Christmas, Freeform TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
2. Nurses, NBC
TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
4. MTV Movie & TV Awards: Greatest of All Time, MTV
TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
5. Trafficked, National Geographic TV Ad Impressions Est. Media Value
3. The Challenge: Double Agents, MTV
Spend Increase: Est. TV Spend: Spend Within Industry:
McDonald's ▲ 134%
Top Network: Discovery en Español
Est. TV Spend: Spend Within Industry: Top Network:
Est. TV Spend:
Interruption Rate: Top Show:
TJX Companies Spend Increase:
TV Ad Impressions:
Liberty Mutual ▲ 127%
$6.7M 9% CBS
TV Ad Impressions:
Est. TV Spend:
AMAZON PRIME VIDEO USED BY 47% OF U.S. BROADBAND HOMES
B+C’S MOST VIEWED Top stories on broadcastingcable.com, Nov. 16-Dec. 9 1. Tegna Stations Go Dark in Dispute With DirecTV 2. Nexstar Stations Removed From Dish in 115 Markets 3. Tegna Stations Give DirecTV, U-verse Battle Another Day 4. Radio Disney Shutting Down in First Quarter 5. AT&T to Tegna: Return Stations Now, We’ll Pay You Later
PLUGGING ITS LATEST virtual conference on over-thetop video, set for Dec. 14-16, research company Parks Associates released an interesting graphic: a snapshot of the current infiltration of the major subscription streaming services. Not surprisingly, Netflix is the most distributed service, used by nearly 70% of U.S. broadband homes. More interesting, though, is the relative juxtaposition of Amazon Prime Video, which Parks said is in 47% of U.S. internet homes. Hulu is a distant third, in just over 35% of broadband domiciles, while Disney Plus is in just under 35% of homes only 13 months after launch. “The surge in online shopping during the COVID-19
crisis has greatly benefitted Amazon Prime Video, which utilizes Amazon Prime as its main access point,” Parks Associates research director Steve Nason said. “Prime Video leads with its stable of originals plus a massive library of licensed titles, while others such as Disney Plus and HBO Max have taken a broad-based aggregator approach by integrating content from its different properties into one unified offering. However, the slow migration of HBO subscribers to HBO Max underscores the importance of distribution strategies in addition to vast content libraries, which WarnerMedia hopes to remedy through its deal with Amazon.” — Daniel Frankel For more stories like this, go to nexttv.com.
ADOPTION OF MAJOR OTT SUBSCRIPTION SERVICES IN THE U.S. BROADBAND HOUSEHOLDS NETFLIX AMAZON PRIME VIDEO HULU* DISNEY PLUS HBO MAX APPLE TV PLUS CBS ALL ACCESS PEACOCK**
To read these stories, go to broadcastingcable.com.
*Hulu penetration rate represents the US BB HHs that subscribe to Hulu or Hulu Live TV services. **Peacock % is for Premium tiers only | SOURCE: Parks Associates
STICKIEST SHOWS Top 10 cable programs ranked by viewer engagement Ratings Rank
Telecast (Week Ending Nov. 29)
90 Day Fiance: The Other Way
Monday Night Football
If I Only Had Christmas
Good Morning Christmas!
Christmas by Starlight
Five Star Christmas
The Curse of Oak Island
Finding My Daughter
If I Only Had Christmas: Hallmark Channel; Dish Network truck: Dish
The Stickiness Index looks at viewer engagement based on several factors. A higher number indicates more of the audience is tuned in for the duration of the telecast. * TV Engagement ratings powered by Comscore’s TV Essentials. (Sorted by social media activity.)
Data provided by
STICKIEST SHOWS Top 10 broadcast programs ranked by viewer engagement
Telecast (Week Nov. 29)
Todo Por Mi Hija
Tu Cara Me Suena
Liga MX Soccer: Guadalajara vs. América
Vencer El Desamor
Sunday Night Football
Futbol Estelar Chivas
Imperio De Mentiras
The Stickiness Index looks at viewer engagement based on several factors. A higher number indicates more of the audience is tuned in for the duration of the telecast. * TV Engagement ratings powered by Comscore’s TV Essentials. (Sorted by social media activity.)
THE WEEK OF NOV. 23 TV Time users track the shows they're watching on TV via the TV Time app. That data is then used to determine the most-binged shows of the week in the U.S.
Share of binges: 2.87%
Share of binges: 2.17%
Share of binges: 2.15%
Share of binges: 1.66%
Share of binges: 1.50%
Share of binges: 1.34%
Share of binges: 1.32%
Share of binges: 1.07%
4. Roku Tries to Undercut Streaming Competitors with $17 Black Friday Deal
The Queen’s Gambit
Share of binges: 0.78%
5. Comcast to Drop Local Stations in 38 Markets with Dual Access to Network Affiliates
LAST WEEK: —
NCIS: CBS; The Watch List: Future photo illustration
LAST WEEK: —
Networks reflected don't include every viewing platform available nor total viewing in share of binge
Share of binges: 1.37%
NEXT TV’S MOST VIEWED Most viewed stories on nexttv.com, Nov. 16-Dec. 9 1. Nexstar Stations Removed From Dish in 115 Markets 2. Hallmark Movies Now Launched On YouTube TV 3. Next TV's 'The Watch List' 2020
To receive "The Binge Report" and otherTV Time reports, visit https://www.whipmedia.com/subscribe/
To read these stories, go to nexttv.com.
Ratings Americaâ€™s favorite home and garden shows TODAY.YOUGOV.COM
This Old House
House Hunters International
Love it or List It
Flip or Flop
Ask This Old House
Tiny House, Big Living
Methodology: Based on an average sample size between 2,067 US adults who had a positive rating of these shows between December 2019 - December 2020
By Karin Bleiler, Symphony MediaAI
For Networks, Knowledge Can Be Power How learnings gleaned from AI can help drive media and entertainment revenue
he 2020 U.S. presidential election was likely one of the most-watched televised events in recent history. Since multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) won’t report subscription numbers until closer to Inauguration Day, networks won’t know who subscribed to their services for election coverage for as long as three months. Until then, they remain in the dark on the distribution revenue generated by the historic vote — or any content, for that matter. As networks perpetually play catch-up, other sectors like finance, retail and manufacturing are leveraging technology not only to understand revenue in real time, but to predict future customer behavior. Fortunately, networks can harness tech in the same way. If networks had systems in place that could pull data from past noteworthy events — say, presidential and midterm elections from 2004 through 2020 — they could then forecast how subscriptions likely rose ahead of voting, more accurately predict the revenue they’re likely to see and use that information to make more informed financial decisions and also in negotiations with their distributors. That capability would be welcome at any time. But it’s especially game-changing at a time like right now, as networks negotiate new licensing agreements with MVPDs before their current deals expire, many of which will be at the end of this year.
Yuichiro Chino/Getty Images
A Negotiating Edge
At present, networks won’t have November’s subscriber data in time to leverage it to negotiate license fees. But if they had AI to learn from and make predictions based on past years’ data, networks could enter these negotiations armed with predictive data based on prior
subscription numbers. Further, those predictive analytics could save networks from the significant revenue adjustments that will take place once the MVPDs ultimately do remit subscription numbers. In sum: content creators would make better financial decisions, and potentially more revenue. MVPDs are not the bad guys here. They have not reported subscriber data from the November election because they are taking their time to close out their books. (They need to manage their customers and cash flow, too.) And most, but not all, are doing it all with desktop tools that were invented as far back as 1985 (e.g., Excel), when distribution revenue models were far less complex and the appetite for data and
analytics far less than is the case today. The industry has outgrown these delayed and manual workflows, though, and the financial implications are severe. Given the lack of timely information available, projecting revenue is extremely difficult and often painful for networks to do. Understanding how distributors are performing — and using that information to negotiate licensing agreements, make business decisions, and create compelling content to retain customers — consumes significant overhead. Additionally, when MVPD data finally becomes available to creators, it’s in multiple formats stored in multiple locations and typically with very limited insightful data points. Organizations that can find a solution to these dilemmas have an advantage. Although media companies may not be in a position to displace outdated self-reporting models that depend entirely on decentralized data, they do have the opportunity to leverage centralized AI tools that not only predict performance but also automate data storage, revenue workflows and financial analysis, reducing operating costs and yielding higher returns. That shift entails a wealth of productivity measures, too, like moving workflows from desktops and on-premise tools to cloud platforms, enabling tighter user access controls, remote collaboration, streamlined reporting, reduced accounts receivable cycle times and better decision-making. Layering the power of AI into these processes creates opportunities for networks to analyze distributor performance, consumer trends and countless other data points that can be leveraged to strengthen their financial position. As it accumulates data, AI can additionally predict future scenarios and help networks adapt to fast-moving trends among viewers, subscribers and other stakeholders in the media landscape.
Making Data More Valuable
Karin Bleiler is senior VP of revenue management at Symphony MediaAI.
AI can’t eliminate MVPD reporting delays, but it can dramatically increase the value of the data that is already available and that which will become available. The financial service teams responsible for revenue management have long been underserved by technology. We’re overdue for solutions that can analyze, predict and achieve the revenue outcomes that networks need to thrive in a competitive environment. That’s intelligence that can be the difference between growth and the alternative. ●
THE FIVE SPOT
Host and Executive Producer, ‘Song Exploder’ Netflix series aims to retain unique vibe that makes the podcast a smash On Song Exploder, Hrishikesh Hirway and guests like Alicia Keys break down the meaning of hit songs.
BONUS FIVE TV shows on your watch list? The Great British Baking Show, Ted Lasso, Travel Man, Pen15, The Mandalorian All-time top TV show? The Wire Favorite app? New York Times crosswords
ew episodes of Song Exploder, a series that sees musicians break down how their hit song came together, begins on Netflix Dec. 15. Dua Lipa, Nine Inch Nails, The Killers and Natalia Lafourcade are featured. Well before the series premiered in October, Song Exploder was — and still is — a podcast. Hrishikesh Hirway hosts both. He spoke with B+C senior content producer, programming Michael Malone about the new episodes and his reluctance to appear on screen. An edited transcript follows.
Was it always the plan to be a TV series? Definitely not. Companies started emailing me in 2016, asking if I had considered adapting to something visual. I was not that excited. A friend said, instead of people trying to convince you to make Song Exploder with them, what if you do your own version? That was when I changed my mind. I met with Morgan Neville, who is for me the premiere music documentarian of our time. He said he would love to do the show. You’re mostly not heard on the podcast but appear in the TV series. Tell me about that. The pitch I brought to Morgan, I was gonna be mostly, if not entirely,
Destinations on your bucket list? Reykjavik, Tokyo, the Aegean Sea invisible. I had gotten that idea from watching documentaries: the way a proper nonfiction story is done is, you don’t hear the interviewer. Morgan pointed out that some of the things that made Song Exploder feel special as a podcast would feel less special in the visual format. How do you select your guests? We want to have a wide range of artists. We put together a wish list in conjunction with Netflix. We wanted people who are fascinating in terms of their art and can
Books on your nightstand or e-reader? Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
articulate themselves well, and are representative of different backgrounds and genres and eras. What’s something a guest said that sticks with you today? Natalia Lafourcade talked about being kicked in the head by a horse when she was a girl. She was hospitalized and went through intensive therapy. Her mom, a music educator, incorporated music education as one of the therapies. That made her into the musician that she is. She wrote “Hasta La Raiz” about how it is both the good and bad things in life that make you who you are, and you need to honor all those things. What are you doing to get your live music fix? I’m not getting that fix at all. It’s just one of the things I am grieving this year. To be in the same room as a drummer playing the drums, hitting the snare, and have the air actually move around you, that’s something I miss a lot. ●
Broadcasting and Cable - December 14, 2020